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Gordon v. City of Philadelphia

August 28, 2009

MYRTLE GORDON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tucker, J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Following a bench trial in this matter on August 3, 2009, and pursuant to Rule 52 (a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court makes the following Findings of Fact:

1. This is an action for damages in connection with the demolition of real property owned by Plaintiff, Myrtle Gordon, located at 3442 N. 16th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (hereinafter "the Property").

2. This action was brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant City of Philadelphia (hereinafter "the City") for violation of Plaintiff's due process rights under the 4th and 14th Amendments. In addition, Plaintiff's suit alleges negligence, breach of contract and unjust enrichment against Defendants Garry Flowers (hereinafter "Flowers"), and GMF Interior Installations*fn1 (hereinafter "GMF"). In Plaintiff's initial Complaint, filed in the Court of Common Pleas Philadelphia County, she also sued Defendant JPC Group, Inc. (hereinafter "JPC"). Plaintiff, subsequently, filed an Amended Complaint in this Court (Doc. 21) withdrawing JPC as a Defendant in this action.

3. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(1), (3), and (4).

4. The evidence introduced at trial established that, on or about April 27, 2006, Plaintiff, her now deceased husband,*fn2 and her son, Jermaine Davis, purchased the Property in dispute for the price of $31,421. It is well settled that Plaintiff's ownership interest in real property is constitutionally protected by due process of law. See, e.g., United States v. James Daniel Good Real Property, 510 U.S. 43, 49 (1993).

5. Plaintiff's intention was to rehabilitate the Property and gain future rental income from it.

6. At the time the Property was purchased it was subject to a number of License and Inspection ("L&I") violations and had been designated by the City as "Unsafe." Plaintiff was given a violation notice from the City, dated August 15, 2005, by her realtor when she purchased the Property. This notice indicated that Robert Shackleford--the previous owner of the property--needed to make the necessary repairs in order to remove the "Unsafe" designation. The notice further stated that if the Property owner did not take the necessary action the City could demolish or repair the structure and bill the Property owner for the costs.*fn3

7. The notice did not give Plaintiff a specific or direct indication of the City's intention to demolish the Property. Moreover, the notice did not specify a time limit as to when the Property owner had to apply for a building permit necessary to complete the repairs, or give a time frame as to when the repairs had to be completed by in order to avoid any further action by the City. Most importantly, these notices did not indicate a date on which the City itself would either take steps to repair or demolish the Property.

8. After purchasing the Property, on or about January 28, 2007, Plaintiff and her son, Alvin Bowser, entered into a contract with GMF for "all major work only as per L&I violation notice." Pl.'s Ex. 3. The contract estimated that the work would be completed within sixty days. Plaintiff paid GMF, up front, the full contract price of $56,666 to start and complete the necessary repairs.

9. GMF began work on the Property, but did so without obtaining a building permit. Plaintiff, was unaware that GMF had commenced work on the Property without the requisite permit until Plaintiff received a phone call of said fact. GMF stopped work on the Property in late February or early March of 2007, and on April 24, 2007, Flowers--through a company that GMF outsourced the responsibility to--filed an application for a building alteration permit with the City.

10. The application remained pending with L&I for approximately four months, during which time the City continued to send out notices indicating the Property was in an "Unsafe"condition and that failure to make the necessary repairs could result in repair or demolition by the City with the owner being billed for the same.

11. Plaintiff was unaware of the notices sent by the City--aside from the notice she was given directly by her realtor when she purchased the Property-- and that the City was, or should have been, aware that Plaintiff was not in receipt of the mailed notices.

12. Plaintiff was not listed by the City as the primary owner of the Property. Instead, the City listed Robert Shackleford as the primary owner and, as ...


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