A Bergen County, New Jersey jury in November rendered a $1.3 million dollar verdict against a cooperative corporation and its management company for failing to remediate a longstanding water problem that led to mold growth and exposure for a Fort Lee couple.
The owners of the penthouse apartment at The Pembroke, a 22-story luxury co-op in Fort Lee, New Jersey, H. Nathan Yagoda and Myrna Yagoda had complained to the cooperative's board of directors and building manager for more than five years that the roof above their unit was leaking. Water came into four rooms of their apartment and created damp, unsafe conditions. In 2006, they were forced to move from the penthouse due to extensive microbial contamination from mold, bacteria and fungi growth.
On November 9, 2007 the court entered a judgment against 2077 Tenants Corporation (The Pembroke cooperative) and CM3 Management in connection with a trial that lasted more than four weeks. The jury in the case had previously rendered a verdict against the Board of Directors of 2077 Tenants Corporation and against its building management, CM3 Management Corporation, in excess of $1.3 million dollars. The eight-member jury determined that the board as well as their building manager were negligent in failing to repair the roof leaks in the penthouse apartment.
Rather than The Pembroke having to pay for the cost of remediation and construction, the jury determined that the Yagodas were entitled to receive the fair market value of the unit as if no contamination existed. Superior Court Judge Robert C. Wilson required The Pembroke to purchase the contaminated unit from the Yagodas for more than one million dollars. In addition, the Yagodas were each awarded $50,000 for physical impairment and loss of enjoyment of life caused by exposure to toxic substances. (See related sidebar.)
The jury also determined that the Yagodas were entitled to a return of their maintenance fees because of breach of the proprietary lease by the Pembroke board. They were awarded money damages to cover the cost to repair, replace or clean personal property which was damaged by mold and leaking water.
The Yagodas were represented by a team of attorneys from the Hackensack law firm of Herten Burstein. The team was lead by New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Civil Trial Attorney Terry Paul Bottinelli, his law partner Patrick Papalia and Senior Counsel Jason T. Shafron. Guy Keith Vann, Esq. of New York City also assisted in the trial.
2077 Tenants Corporation and CM3 Management Company were represented by a legal team from Stark and Stark.
Jason T. Shafron, Esq. is an attorney with Herten, Burstein, Sheridan, Cevasco, Bottinelli, Litt & Harz, L.L.C. in Hackensack, New Jersey.