Condo owners expand suit over The Pointe Defendants added. more funds sought

March 21, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

Raising the ante in a legal battle over alleged shoddy construction, owners of Abingdon condominiums have named 12 more defendants in an amended lawsuit and increased damages sought from $115 million to $385 million.

Attorneys for the Council of Unit Owners at The Pointe in $H Constant Friendship filed the original suit against Cockeysville developers The Pointe Inc. and Henderson-Webb Inc., and Baltimore structural engineers Skarda and Associates Inc. in January 1992.

The suit sought compensation on behalf of 228 unit owners, alleging "severe problems" with roofs, walls, floors, stairs and doors.

The amended suit, filed Wednesday in Harford Circuit Court, reiterates and elaborates on arguments made in the original suit and demands a jury trial. It also names as defendants Menefee and Associates LTD, a Baltimore architect, Morris and Ritchie Associates Inc., a Bel Air engineering firm, and Geo-Technology Association Inc., a Bel Air engineering firm.

The latter two firms, the suit contends, had a role in inspecting the construction of the 19 condominium buildings off Route 24 near Interstate 95.

Also named as defendants were roof and floor truss designing zTC firms Porter Industries Inc. of Delaware, ILS Manufacturing Enterprise Inc., of Pennsylvania, and Mitek Industries Inc., of Pennsylvania.

Other new defendants listed are Gabco Masonary Inc., McCann and Sons Roofing and officers of The Pointe Inc. and Henderson-Webb Inc. -- Robert E. Meyerhoff, Samuel M. Trivas, Natalie Gaborick and Lynn Lobe.

The two-bedroom brick units with optional den and ample parking were built in 1988. They appealed to retirees and younger couples alike when The Pointe Inc., a subsidiary of Henderson-Webb Inc., began developing and marketing the *T complex.

Almost immediately, residents discovered leaks, buckling floors, drafty windows, faulty plumbing and peeling paint.

An independent Illinois architectural firm hired by the owners warned residents that structural design flaws, inferior materials and shoddy workmanship could allow roof trusses to collapse under the weight of a heavy snow.

Developers repaired roof trusses in 13 of the 19 buildings, but stopped work when the owners balked at signing off on future liability. In August, the residents filed another lawsuit to force developers to pay for emergency repairs to the last six buildings.

The matter was resolved in a pre-trial settlement in November. The cost of the repairs was not revealed, but the Illinois firm estimated the repairs would cost about $180,000.

James E. Edwards Jr. of Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver, a #F Baltimore law firm representing the owners, said Thursday that the roof repairs have been or are being made.

No trusses have collapsed, but court records show the ones in question were said to be out of plumb, missing plates, and, in some instances, improperly placed, causing weight-bearing problems for the entire structure.

The amended suit also describes structural defects in greater detail, citing "improper materials in the erection, fabrication, installation, finishing and departure from the plans and specifications."

As a result, the lawsuit contends, the value of the units, which sold for about $75,000 new, has declined, and residents and guests risk serious injury.

The amended lawsuit alleges 32 counts, including breach of implied and expressed warranty, breach of contract, violations of the Consumer Protection Act, fraud, negligence and misrepresentation, negligence in design and supervision, product liability and defective design and fabrication.

The amended suit also seeks to pierce the corporate veil it contends Henderson-Webb Inc. established by forming The Pointe Inc. The owners want the court to look beyond the assets of The Pointe Inc. to those of Henderson-Webb Inc.

While linking the individual corporate officers to The Pointe Inc. and Henderson-Webb Inc., the lawsuit contends Henderson-Webb "siphoned off substantially all of the assets" collected by The Pointe Inc., leaving the subsidiary "grossly undercapitalized" and unable to satisfy its obligations to the unit owners.

A tentative trial date has been set for October, Mr. Edwards said.

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