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Family alleges Habitat for Humanity construction caused Baltimore rowhome collapse

A Baltimore family has filed suit against Habitat for Humanity alleging the organization’s construction on a neighboring house caused a partial collapse of its own.

Lisa and Sally Croxton, daughter and mother, were renting a rowhome on North Calhoun Street two years ago when Habitat for Humanity began renovating the home next door which shared a weight-bearing brick wall, according to the complaint filed Monday in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers rebuild a home in Havre de Grace in October. A Baltimore family claims in a lawsuit Habitat’s work on a neighboring rowhome led to the collapse of a weight-bearing wall, destroying the plaintiffs’ home and leading their eviction. (File photo)

Habitat for Humanity volunteers rebuild a home in Havre de Grace in October. A Baltimore family claims in a lawsuit Habitat’s work on a neighboring rowhome led to the collapse of a weight-bearing wall, destroying the plaintiffs’ home and leading their eviction. (File photo)

Habitat hired SM Enterprises LLC to remove the floor and roof framing on the home and began digging near the weight-bearing wall.

“At the time, it wasn’t like modern-day construction where foundations were poured, the houses were literally built just right on top of the ground so it’s particularly precarious if you do excavation and you don’t shore up the party wall,” said Michael Glass, a Baltimore solo practitioner representing the plaintiffs.

On May 20, 2014 the Croxtons heard loud noises and saw large cracks appearing in the plaster of the walls and ceilings.

“Fearing for their lives, both women frantically ran out of the house to escape the collapsing structure as part of the basement wall crumbled,” the complaint alleges.

The city evicted the plaintiffs due to the “catastrophic damage to the structure” and did not allow them to return to their home to collect belongings, which were later stolen by looters. Glass said his clients were displaced for months before finding new housing without important documents and their property.

“They could not go back for their belongings and the back of the property, Habitat’s property, was not secure,” Glass said. “There was a gaping hole in the wall between Habitat’s property and where my clients were living so people gained access.”

The plaintiffs’ primary concern right now is compensation for the personal property they lost because it was taken from the improperly secured site, according to Glass.

“I’m hopeful that Habitat and the contractor will come back to the table and that this matter can be resolved sooner rather than later,” Glass said.

Attempts to mediate failed because all of the potential parties did not consent to alternative dispute resolution, according to Glass.

A spokeswoman for Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges tortious injury to land, negligence and breach of contract and seeks damages in excess of $75,000 for each claim.

The case is Lisa Croxton et al. v. Sandtown Habitat for Humanity Inc. et al., 24C16003649.