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Gordon v. City of Philadelphia

April 9, 2010

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



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

MEMORANDUM

After a bench trial in this matter on March 15, 2010, and pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a), 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 ("the Property").

2. At the time that Plaintiff purchased the Property, it was subject to several License and Inspection ("L&I") violations, causing the City of Philadelphia ("the City") to designate the Property as "Unsafe" within the meaning of the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code, Section PM-307-0 Unfit Structures and Equipment.

3. Plaintiff was provided with an L&I violation notice from the City dated August 15, 2005, which indicated that if the violations were not corrected, the City could eliminate the unsafe condition(s) by repair or demolition using its own forces or by contract. The notice also informed Plaintiff that a permit would be required in advance of any work to demolish or rehabilitate the structure.

4. On or about January 28, 2007, Plaintiff entered into a contract with Defendant Gary Flowers and his company, GMF Interior Installations, for the completion of "All Major Work as per License and Inspection Violation Notice." The contract price was $64,000.00 based upon the fact that the work contemplated included both renovation and removal of violations.

5. Plaintiff paid Defendant a deposit in the amount of $32,000.00, followed by weekly installment payments, for a total of $56,666.00 paid to Defendant.

6. Defendant began working on the property almost immediately after he and Plaintiff entered into the contract. However, Defendant was forced to cease operations in February because he began the work without the necessary permit in violation of the code.

7. While the contract in question was silent as to which party, Plaintiff or Defendant, was required to obtain the permit, Defendant admitted at trial that he informed Plaintiff that he would obtain a permit, and further, that it was a mistake on his part not to do so. Defendant also admitted that he was aware that it is unlawful to perform the work specified in the contract without the required permit.

8. Plaintiff's expert testified that it is standard in the construction industry for a contractor to obtain the Building Permit, but that even where the parties have reached a different agreement regarding the application for a permit, it is negligent and unlawful to begin construction without the necessary permits.

9. Prior to ceasing operations at the Property, Defendant and two to three (2-3) workers hired by Defendant stuccoed the right side of the Property, and partially dismantled the rear wall of the Property to prevent its collapse.

10. After having to cease operations at the Property, Defendant did ultimately file an Application for a Building Permit on April 24, 2007. However, the application was improperly filed, as it only sought a permit for renovations, but did not request permission to address the violations.

11. On August 29, 2007, a Building Permit was issued to Defendant when he went to the License and Inspections Department to specifically request that the application be converted from one focusing on renovations to one which would permit him to perform work to correct the violations.

12. By the time that the necessary Building Permit was issued, the Property had already been demolished on or about August 17, 2007, pursuant to an ...


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