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Tenants Lose Bid for Group Lawsuit

04.17.04

Tenants Lose Bid for Group Lawsuit
Mold forced hundreds from Elsmere complex

By BETH MILLER
Staff reporter


Reprinted with permission from the April 17, 2004
Delaware News Journal.  Copyright 2004.  Further duplication without permission is prohibited.  All rights reserved.

Three former residents of Fenwick Park Apartments lost their bid Friday to make a class-action suit out of their claims against the Elsmere complex condemned in 2002 because of mold problems.

Hundreds of residents were displaced when town officials condemned 38 of the property's 39 buildings, citing mold and other health hazards.

The extent and cause of the mold are among the facts that remain in dispute, according to attorney Douglas Schleicher of Philadelphia-based Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers. Schleicher's firm represents Elsmere Park Club and LCL Management. Elsmere Park Club sold the complex to JAB Property Management of Jersey City, N.J., last year.

Schleicher said Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan R. Jurden's decision was based, in part, on her judgment that the plaintiffs were not adequate representatives of the group they wanted to represent and that they had not demonstrated common claims and facts.

Attorneys said the ruling does not end the plaintiffs' individual claims for damages.

"We have some decisions to make about how we are going to proceed for them or for anyone else," said Gerald J. Williams of the Philadelphia-based firm of Williams, Cuker & Berezofsky, which is representing the plaintiffs. Williams identified the plaintiffs as Ricky Manuel, Carla Kees and Catherine Kellam, all of New Castle County.

Charles P. Scavitto, director of code enforcement for the town of Elsmere, said the new owners are making extensive renovations. One building on Cypress Avenue has reopened, with 21 of 24 units there already occupied, he said. A second building is under renovation now.

"They are really starting to dress up the area," Scavitto said. "If they continue to do the other buildings in the same fashion, there will be a whole transformation down there. It will be absolutely gorgeous."

Scavitto said many new residents were original residents of the condemned property.

"It's great to see the people return to the neighborhood," he said.