Suit over home couple says was built on old grave site dismissed by judge

October 03, 1999|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

When Tom and Deborah Carven suspected four years ago that their dream house in Worcester County was built on an old graveyard, they sued the estate of the developer for $1.5 million and felt confident the courts would rule in their favor. After all, they figured, everyone knows it's wrong to disturb or build on a burial site. There are laws against that.

But the Bishopville couple received a major blow in Worcester County Circuit Court last week when Judge Thomas C. Groton III ruled in favor of the defendants, Vivian Hickman and the estate of her late husband, Louis J. Hickman.

The judge ruled that even if the Carvens could prove the developer purposely concealed the existence of graves, a "statute of repose" applies. In essence, that means that too much time has elapsed for the developer to remain liable.

The Carvens, who have been fighting since 1997 in civil court to recover damages for alleged fraud, say they will appeal Groton's ruling.

"It's David and Goliath," Tom Carven said yesterday. "They've got millions of dollars, and we live paycheck to paycheck."

The defendants, through their lawyer, James Almand, have denied allegations of wrongdoing and denied that a graveyard is on the site.

The Carvens discovered human remains on the property in early 1995. They say that their housestands atop a family cemetery that was once part of a 200-acre farm.

Pub Date: 10/03/99

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