Jury Awards Homeowners $240,000 In Cole Construction Trial

by | Mar 25, 2015

Archie_R_Cole_Middle_School_2012_1024After two days of deliberation, the eight-person jury in the Cole construction trial found the Town of East Greenwich liable for nuisance and awarded the plaintiffs $240,000 – $80,000 per household.

The verdict Wednesday brought to a close a trial that began three weeks ago, on March 4. Plaintiffs Chris and Susan Lamendola; Tom Hogan and Cynthia Pelosi; and Keith and Wendy Amelotte all live on Sarah’s Trace, a cul-de-sac near to Cole Middle School. In 2011, they filed suit against the town, the school department, Gilbane Construction, architect/engineer SMMA, Strategic Building Solutions, Fleet Construction, Manafort Brothers, and Aldinger & Associates, claiming negligence, damage and nuisance resulted from construction of the new Cole school building between 2009 and 2011.

Superior Court Judge Gallo dismissed all damage and negligence claims against defendants in the Cole construction trial Friday, March 20, leaving a single claim of nuisance against the town.

“It’s been a long road for them. I’m very pleased with the verdict. Given what the jury had to work with on the nuisance claim, I think that it’s a strong amount of money,” said plaintiffs’ attorney David Maglio after the judge dismissed the jury. “I’m just very, very happy for them.”

Maglio said it was too early to tell, but that an appeal was “definitely a possibility.”

Michael DeSisto, attorney for the town, had no comment. Both sides have 10 days to file post-trial motions.

Construction on the new Cole Middle School began in November 2009 and Chris Lamendola at 50 Sarah’s Trace, which abuts the school, contacted town officials soon after to complain of vibrations he and his wife were experiencing as a result of the construction. They then began reporting that the vibrations were causing cracks in their house, on their basketball court and in their pool. Neighbors Tom Hogan and Cynthia Pelosi also registered complaints, starting in December 2009.

Seismic monitors were placed at the residents’ property line from Dec. 28 to May 7, 2010. The results indicated the vibrations from the construction did not rise to the level that would cause damage. Two engineering companies surveyed the Sarah’s Trace properties as well as others in the vicinity where residents had reported vibrations and damage.

In August 2010, a third couple, Wendy and Keith Amelotte, of 35 Sarah’s Trace, noticed damage they believed was caused by the construction.

You can find all the EG News stories on the Cole construction lawsuit here.

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EG Attorney
EG Attorney
March 25, 2015 5:56 pm

WOW! This has to be one on the largest awards I have ever heard of for nuisance in the RI Courts. If this isn’t a repudiation of the actions of the Town of East Greenwich, this speaks volumes to the behavior of these politicians. A nuisance award has nothing to do with actual damage but for interference and enjoyment of the use of property. Sounds like the jury was very supportive of the plaintiffs.

I was told by other attorneys that the Sarahs Trace plaintiffs couldn’t present the damages caused by the Cole Construction by some technicality…. I was told that they proved the damages were caused by the construction but were denied presenting damages? I can’t image what the award would have been if the jury was able to have this damage as admissible… I’m sure an appeal on the admissibility is right behind this ruling. I think the Town should rethink its position or they could find themselves with a huge verdict in the near future.

Alan Clarke
March 26, 2015 10:28 am
Reply to  EG Attorney

But doesn’t it stink just a wee bit? I hire Shmidlap to build me a house. In the process, he knocks over a tree and damages the house next door. Shmidlap gets off but I have to pay for creating a nuisance… not the damages, mind you, but for creating a nuisance. A quarter million dollar one at that. There were damages done to these houses, yes? Then the blame should be shared by all responsible. The whole idea that there is anything remotely called justice in this country is very suspect. Please explain to those of us with big pink question marks floating above our heads why the contractors got off.

EG Attorney
EG Attorney
March 26, 2015 1:12 pm
Reply to  Alan Clarke

Alan, my interest in this is from a legal and ethical (yes some lawyers have ethics) standpoint. The town is responsible for the actions of its agents and therefore should have some sort of contractual and legal recourse(indemnification) from these agents, contractors and subcontractors. So the town is responsible for the damage and nuisance. It seems for some odd reason only nuisance was allowed? The town with this verdict doesn’t sound so rosy here.

What I find ironic is that the Sarahs Trace folks are taxpaying residents who in my mind should have been protected by the Town of East Greenwich elected officials (Town owed its residents’ a duty). Aren’t they paying for the project? They pay taxes (and will continue till the bond is paid off), which paid for the construction and profits of all the contractors involved. So why didn’t the Town take the side of Sarahs Trace (their taxes pay for the town lawyers and insurance also), pay for the damages to their homes and then subrogate against the contractors, or those responsible. Isn’t that why you live in a community like East Greenwich???? I would be a little concerned that this could possibly happen to me or someone else and the Town would throw me to the “wolves” like it seems in this case. Did any of the politicians visit the homes?

Alan, I know you are a townie, the real question is why are the taxpaying East Greenwich residents of Sarahs Trace in this predicament in the first place. Why did the Town abandon these people? Maybe I’m a little old fashioned but I can remember a time when neighbors protected other neighbors and would never allow something like this to happen.


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