In a case in which my colleague, Jack Boyd, and I represented the unit owner, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City has held a high-rise condominium in contempt of a prior order of the Court to undertake and complete repairs to the exterior common elements needed to make the building watertight. During a three-day trial, the Court found that both the failure to include certain specified items in the repair contract, and the failure to complete the repairs within the time ordered by the Court, amounted to willful contempt, and called for the imposition of sanctions. The Court further found that the case presented the “exceptional circumstances” required under Maryland law for the award of compensatory damages as part of the sanction. The Court also established certain construction deadlines to be met in order for the Condominium to avoid additional damage payments.
The original claim concerned the failure of the council of unit owners to correct defects in the common elements of the roof, exterior façade and HVAC system. These defects were alleged to have permitted water intrusion through the exterior envelope and into the Plaintiff’s unit, resulting in damage to building components, interior finishes and furnishings and other personal property, along with microbial contamination, which rendered the unit uninhabitable.
The case was tried over five days before a three-judge arbitration panel in September 2011. In November 2011, the arbitration panel awarded the Plaintiff cash damages in the amount of $1,252,487, representing the cost to repair damage to the unit and to remediate the environmental contamination, along with alternative living expenses and other related costs. The panel also issued a specific performance award directing the Condominium to undertake an identified scope of work to repair to the roof, exterior façade and HVAC system. The panel ordered that the HVAC repairs be completed within 60 days, and that the remaining building repairs be completed within two years
On June 5, 2012, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City confirmed the arbitration award in its entirety, and a judgment was entered ordering the common element repairs to be completed by December 30. 2013. The condominium took an appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which affirmed the decision in an opinion dated July 1, 2013. A subsequent petition for certiorari by the condominium to have the case considered by the Maryland Court of Appeals was denied.
Although the condominium commenced repairs, the project remains significantly incomplete beyond the court-mandated deadline.