A sister of state Sen. George W. Della Jr., D-Baltimore-47th, has sued him for allegedly persuading their mother to take back a valuable Federal Hill house deeded to her more than 10 years ago, according to papers filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court.
Mary Della-Massing alleges that their parents, George W. and Agnes Della, gave her the house in the 400 block of Warren Avenue, overlooking the Inner Harbor, in 1973 with the understanding that it would take the place of an inheritance.
But last year, after their father's death, according to Ms. Della-Massing, their 82-year-old mother "placed all her confidence in her son . . . trusting that his advice and counsel was in her best interest" and convinced her that she should execute a new deed taking back the property.
The suit says that in 1973 the house was assessed for $60,000 and was "in need of renovation and improvement." The current assessment is $329,580, according to the suit.
Ms. Della-Massing says her improvements to the house are worth more than $300,000.
A deed drawn up in 1981 gave the property to Ms. Della-Massing but allowed her parents to take it back under certain conditions. The suit alleges that Mr. Della "has a long history of acts of cruelty and malice" toward his sister and even used his position as a state senator "to institute a state investigation of [her] business."
Mr. Della said that he had not seen the filed papers but that he had been contacted by his mother's attorney.
"It is not proper for me to comment on litigation," he said. "That is for the lawyers. I'll retain counsel, and he'll speak for me."
Ms. Della-Massing's suit says that she received no inheritance from her father and that taking the house has the effect of disinheriting her.
"In advising his mother to transfer the property back to herself so that it could be distributed through her estate, George Della Jr. has acted in breach of the confidential relationship he holds with his mother specifically to benefit his own interests and to harm the interest of [Ms. Della-Massing]," the suit says.
Ms. Della-Massing is asking that the court transfer the house to her. In addition, she is asking the court for $25,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages from her brother.