HBD Contracting Inc
., the contractor of downtown developer Craig Heller,
was at fault for damaging the Maurizio's Pizza
building at Olive and 11th streets
back in 2003 -- the year the company built an underground parking garage next door for the Louderman Lofts
But just how much at fault is a more complicated question: The jury returned two different verdicts, with varying degrees of liability.
: In May 2003, HBD dug the hole for the Louderman parking garage at the behest of LoftWorks
, Heller's development company.
Immediately, the owner of the pizzeria and the building itself, Steve Scaglione
noticed a huge crack running all the way up his structure, a five-story
brick affair now almost 130 years old. The building had shifted so
much, in fact, that the elevator could no longer climb the shaft to the
top floor, and blue sky was visible through certain spots in the wall.
This threw a wrench in Scaglione's plan to convert the upper floors into lofts.
Scaglione sued HBD, framing the battle as a big-shot developer/City Hall favorite vs. the little guy (see our coverage at the time
years later, the matter finally went to trial, which both Heller and
Scaglione personally attended. Scaglione was asking for $2.2
According to a juror who wished to remain anonymous,
the jury decided on Friday night that on the count of negligence, HBD
was 100 percent at fault and should pay $1.3 million.
However, on the count of "per se
negligence," the jury found the contractor only 60 percent at fault, with Scaglione himself bearing some of the blame.
HBD's attorney, Larry Grabel
, tells Daily RFT
he'll be trying to dissuade the Court at a hearing tomorrow from signing off on two verdicts that are "incompatible."
But Jim Martin
Scaglione's attorney, says his "theories of recovery were clearly
alternate," and that they'll be dropping the count that resulted in only
partial liability tomorrow.
"Steve seems happy with the
verdict," Martin says of his client, who still operates Maurizio's
Pizza. The businessman has already spent about $25,000 to brace
and shore up his building, Martin says; to stabilize it back to its 2003
state will cost an additional $1 million.
Martin says Scaglione
would like to do something with the building's upper floors, "but he
recognizes the market for condos has gone to hell. He's lost that
After a two-week trial, a city jury decided late last Friday evening that