The lawsuit pitting Sarah’s Trace homeowners against the EG School District, the Town of East Greenwich and various construction-related entities is set to go to trial March 2, 2015 – four years after the suit was filed. The homeowners say construction of the new Cole Middle School caused cracks in their walls and foundations, threatening the structural integrity of the houses.
Construction on the new school begin in fall 2009. Homeowners Chris and Sue Lamendola, at 50 Sarah’s Trace, and Tom Hogan and Cynthia Pelosi, 40 Sarah’s Trace, sought help from the town early on, after they said they noticed cracks in their homes. They went public with their complaints in November 2012, filing a police report to document to the damage.
At issue, according to the homeowners, were the vibrations caused by construction machinery. Seismic readings failed to show that the vibrations felt were sufficient to cause the kind of structural damage reported by the homeowners. The homeowners, meanwhile, questioned the validity and timing of the seismic readings.
The Lamendolas and Hogan/Pelosis filed their lawsuit in February 2011, with additional plaintiffs Keith and Wendy Amelotte at 35 Sarah’s Trace.
In 2012, the three couples also appealed their tax assessments, saying the assessments should be zero because of the damage to their houses. The Town of East Greenwich settled the tax dispute with the homeowners for $70,000 in July.
The “date certain” trial date was sought by all the parties, defendants and plaintiffs alike, according to Matt Oliverio, lawyer for the EG School District, in order to schedule expert witnesses.
The case could settle before March 2, but Oliverio said there hadn’t been much talking between the two sides up to this point.
“I think it would be good to try to get a mediation session, to at least try to see if the case can be resolved. I’m sure the court would be in favor of that,” said Oliverio earlier this week.
Several defense lawyers are involved in the case, with most of the defendants have their own representation. In addition to the town and the school district, defendants include Gilbane Construction (the contractor), SBS (the project management firm), SMMA (the architect), and Fleet and Manafort (subcontractors).
EGSD and the town are represented by Michael DeSisto, who was appointed by Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, which provides the town’s insurance. Both Oliverio and Town Council President Michael Isaacs have said any adverse ruling against the school district or town would most likely be paid for out by the town’s insurer, as opposed to the town’s coffers.
“The types of claims they’re asserting should be covered – they’re mostly negligence claims. Those should be covered,” said Oliverio. “Let’s say one of the contractors was negligent in not ensuring that different means and methods were employed, their carriers would pick up the tab on that.”
When asked if it wasn’t cheaper in the long run to settle rather then go to trial, Oliverio said, “Not if you have unrealistic expectations.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney David Maglio declined to comment.