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CSA plugs Belvedere leak case

A leak in the office is bad news. But imagine if your place of work is responsible for the pear salad and duet plate for 200 hundred guests in black-tie optional clothing. (“Waiter, my chicken is water-logged.”)

Such is the fate of Truffles Catering, located in the basement of The Belvedere. The leak there is from the adjoining parking garage and has been going on at least since 1995.

Twenty years ago, the previous owners of basement condo and garage entered into an easement agreement that they thought would resolve legal issues stemming from the leak. But the constant drip-drip-drip ended up being too much for Truffles, which filed suit against garage owner G&J Chase LLC in April 2013.

A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge dismissed the case last February, finding the water leakage was not beyond the scope of the easement. On Wednesday, the Court of Special Appeals upheld the lower court ruling.

Truffles argued any leakage from pipes going through its office space is outside the scope of the easement. But Judge Dan Friedman, writing for the appellate panel, said it found no limiting language in the easement at issue:

Had the parties to the original Easement wished to provide an easement only for pipes to travel into and across the basement, they could surely have said so, perhaps without reference even to what would be carried in those pipes. Instead, the parties—presumably sophisticated, commercial parties, represented by counsel—specifically negotiated an Easement for “drainage and flow of water and/or other substances” without regard to whether it was in pipes or not.

Truffles also did not complaint about the leak coming from anything other than rain or “normal operation of the parking garage,” both of which are covered by the easement, Friedman added.

The opinion is Truffles at The Belvedere LLC v. G&J Chase LLC, et al., No. 0012, September 2014 Term. It will be in our unreported opinions database soon.