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Jury awards $140K for concealed flood issues in Hyattsville home

A Prince George’s County jury found two real estate agents liable recently for concealing flooding issues in a home they flipped.

The jury awarded $140,000 to the homeowner, including $5,000 in punitive damages, finding fraudulent misrepresentation and violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act on the part of the defendants.

A judge granted a motion for judgment following a jury trial in 2016, but the Court of Special Appeals remanded the case because of an expert the defendants were not allowed to call at trial. The new trial began June 10 and a verdict was returned June 13 after approximately two hours of deliberations, according to attorney Michael Wein.

“Obviously, my client is pleased with the jury’s verdict,” Wein said Friday. “It (was supported) by the overwhelming evidence that these two real estate agents, who were also the sellers, more out a desire to earn profit sold him a house that had significant basement plumbing issues.”

Joseph Basso bought a home in Hyattsville in 2011 from Javier Szuchman and Jose Rodriguez. The basement flooded within weeks and continued to flood over the course of months and years, according to the Court of Special Appeals summary of the facts.

Szuchman and Rodriguez had bought the home earlier that year with an unfinished basement and remodeled the house, listing it for sale roughly two months later, according to the Court of Special Appeals summary. They signed a disclosure that they had no knowledge of any “leaks or evidence of moisture” in the basement and an inspector did not note any evidence of flooding.

The basement flooded less than a month later and continued to do so with any “substantial rainstorm” or “continued rain over a few days,” the summary stated.  Basso filed suit in 2014 alleging the real estate agents had actual knowledge of the flooding issue and concealed it by removing bushes lining the side of the home and replacing them with poured concrete.

Reports from work done to deal with the flooding showed Basso paid $4,500 in December 2011 after the first incident, then $1,000 the following spring, according to the Court of Special Appeals. A contractor estimated in April 2012 that nearly $20,000 in concrete work would be required to deal with the problems.

Defense attorney Thomas A. McManus, partner at Sasscer, Clagett & Bucher in Upper Marlboro, said that a motion was still pending before Judge Thomas P. Smith and that he would file a memorandum with the court Friday.

A copy of the memorandum reviewed by The Daily Record, which had not been filed as of Friday’s deadline, alleges Basso’s expert witness lacked a legally sufficient basis for his contention that the defendants knew or should have known about the flooding issues.

But according to Wein, the defense’s motion has caused the court to delay entering judgment in the case as it normally would do after the verdict is returned. Wein filed a motion June 20 asking the court to have the clerk enter the judgment.

In his motion, Wein argues that the entry of judgment by the clerk is a ministerial function that cannot be held up by the court because of a defense motion that the defense asked to be held under consideration.

“This Court’s apparent ‘sub curia‘ determination on ‘reservation’ of a Defendants’ unremarkable verbal motion, after a negative jury verdict, is without merit and non-existent in Maryland case law or Rule,” the motion states. “This Court’s apparent determination to now additionally ‘withhold’ the jury’s verdict from being ministerial (sic) entered and made available in the public record and online, is also a recipe for chaos.”

Joseph Basso v. Campos & Associates Realty et al.

Court: Prince George’s County Circuit

Case No.: CAL14-30313

Judge: Thomas P. Smith

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff ($135,000 in compensatory damages, $5,000 in punitive damages)

Dates:

Incident:

Suit filed: Nov. 13, 2014

Verdict: June 13, 2019

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Michael Wein, Law Offices of Michael Wein in Greenbelt

Defendants’ Attorneys: Thomas A. McManus, partner at Sasscer, Clagett & Bucher in Upper Marlboro

Counts: Fraudulent misrepresentation, Maryland Consumer Protection Act


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