HARRISBURG – A $132,935 judgment entered in a real estate agreement breach-of-contract case was upheld in a July 6 in a Superior Court of Pennsylvania appeal ruling.
According to the Superior Court order, John R. Blackburn III failed to pay rent and make agreed-upon renovations to properties he conveyed to King Investment Group LLC in February 2011.
The court said Blackburn admitted that he owed $18,000 in rent but disputed the nature and estimated cost of the renovations, which included bringing two bathrooms up to code in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and replacing heating and air conditioning units, plumbing and a hot water heater.
During the March 2016 trial on the breach claims, Jerry O’Connor, an expert witness for plaintiff King Investment, testified that the cost of the work that Blackburn was required to have done, not including the replacement of the faulty hot water heater, would be $114,935, plus additional labor costs.
“O’Connor, a general contractor, testified that he estimated the value of the renovations based upon blueprints submitted to him by appellee,” the Superior Court said in its ruling.
In addition, King Investment provided an estimate for the hot water heater that stated that the water heater would cost $850, and installation of related heat pumps would cost an additional $7,500.
Meanwhile, Blackburn argued in court that his own estimates revealed that the bathroom renovation projects would total $3,200, the replacement of the heating and cooling system would cost $14,900 for one area of the properties and $7,840 in another and that the total cost of replacing the hot water heater would be $570.
Blackburn also attempted to present the opinion of general contractor Stephen Tait to back up his cost estimates, but the lower court did not allow Tait to testify, citing a lack of qualifications and issues with pre-trial discovery.
The Superior Court said Blackburn’s issues on appeal of the judgment included a dispute over the definition of the term renovations, the proper assessment of the cost of the work to be done and the lower court’s decision regarding Tait’s testimony.
"While Appellant is correct in noting that Appellee did not request the identification of expert witnesses pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 4003.5, this does not lead to the automatic conclusion that the trial court should have allowed Tait to testify as a witness," the court ruled.
"The trial court, as it explained above, found a number of reasons, including a lack of curriculum vitae, Appellant’s attempt to game the discovery process, and limited qualifications, to explain why Tait could not be confirmed as an expert witness. We find no error of law in the trial court’s reasoning for excluding this witness’s expert testimony."