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Court affirms damage award to Jeannette building owner

Paul Peirce
| Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A state appellate court has affirmed a $24,000 civil damage award in 2011 to the owner of a Jeannette apartment house that was accidently damaged as wreckers demolished another house on the block.

Sherran N. Herring's request for an increase in the damage award to $31,500 was unanimously rejected by Commonwealth Court Friday, according to court documents.

Herring's property at 420 Division St. was mistakenly damaged as a crew from All States Wrecking Co. of Saltsburg was demolishing a neighboring home at 422 Division St. in May 1999.

Herring subsequently sued the wrecking company and the City of Jeannette, which authorized the demolition work.

In 2011, Judge Anthony Marsili limited the damage award to $24,000, without an admission of liability, based on the market value of the property prior to the demolition work.

Herring subsequently appealed, “contending the full cost of the repair (was) at $31,500 ... the proper measure of her damages.”

Herring had received the residence, which had three apartments, as a gift from her mother four years earlier.

The vacant apartment house is one of several properties in the city that have been targeted since 2010 by a serial arsonist who remains at large despite investigations by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The apartment house sustained minor damage in a February fire, one of 17 blazes that were intentionally set there during the past two years.

The appellate panel of Judges Bernard L. McGinley and Robert Simpson and Senior Judge James Gardner Colins concurred with Marsili's opinion that the potential damage award to Harring was limited.

“... The trial court correctly concluded that property owner, as a matter of law, could not recover more than the market value of the property before the demolition work and that the market value of the property was undisputed,” Colins wrote in a six-page opinion.

Solicitor Scott Avolio said the city is pleased the appellate court panel chose not to increase the damage award. The city's share of the damage will be about $5,000 and is not covered by insurance.

Attempts to reach Herring for comment as to whether she will appeal the decision were unsuccessful.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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