Montco construction co. sues Bristol Township, others over retaliatory building code violations

By Jon Campisi | Nov 4, 2013

A Montgomery County home improvement firm has filed a federal lawsuit against a Bucks County municipality and various local officials over claims that the defendants issued a false construction code violation against the plaintiffs in anticipation of a civil action the firm was preparing to file against a pair of homeowners.

Paradigm Development and Construction LLC, which is based in North Wales, Pa., alleges in its complaint that Bristol Township and its representatives colluded with residents John and Patricia Conard to issue numerous code violations relating to a home renovation project being undertaken by Paradigm on behalf of the couple.

In late 2009, the Conards retained the plaintiff’s services to construct an addition to the couple’s Bristol Township home.

At first, the plaintiff worked on the couple’s home without any issues, having survived nine separate inspections of the property by the municipal defendants.

In the fall of 2010, however, the plaintiff stopped work on the construction project when the Conards allegedly failed to tender timely payment for the work that had been performed up until that point.

Then, in early 2011, Bristol Township officials issued a violation notice to Paradigm citing 37 separate violations of the municipality’s building code for construction work performed by the plaintiff at the Conards’ property.

Paradigm claims that the violation was issued to it despite the fact that no township building officials actually inspected the property.

The complaint also says that prior to the issuance of the notice, municipal officials and the Conards communicated on numerous occasions regarding the preparing of a violation notice.

The Conards had reportedly provided Bristol officials with a DVD containing more than 1,000 images taken by the homeowners of the work that had been performed thus far.

“Plaintiff was not notified of any construction deficiencies at the Conard property, and was not provided with an opportunity to discuss, defend or refute the allegations of the Municipal Defendants that Plaintiff has violated the Bristol Building Code,” the lawsuit reads.

The municipal defendants, the suit states, never actually saw the condition of the home renovations because the areas of the alleged violations were enclosed and concealed by drywall.

“The Municipal Defendants concluded that Plaintiff had violated the Bristol Building Code without any inspection of the alleged construction defects that constituted a violation of the Building and, without any input from or notification to Plaintiff,” the complaint states. “The Municipal Defendants recklessly and willfully failed to investigate the allegations of the Conards, ignored their own previous inspections of Plaintiff’s work, which they had approved, in order to issue the violation of the Building Code.”

Paradigm claims that the municipal defendants and the Conards “worked closely together” to ensure that violation notice was given to the contractor in order to defend the anticipated breach of contract claim by the plaintiff and for other improper reasons as yet unknown to the construction company.

A violation of the township’s building code, the suit says, subjected Paradigm to a fine of $1,000 per day and other sanctions.

The violation notice was finally withdrawn on Nov. 1, 2011.

The company claims that as a result of the defendants’ actions, it suffered a constitutional deprivation, fear of imminent peril and loss of property, and fear of loss of physical liberty.

The suit contains counts of malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy and civil rights violations.

Aside from the Conards and the township, the other defendants named in the action are the township’s Department of Building, Planning and Inspection; Glen M. Kucher, the director of building, planning and zoning for the township; Building Inspection Underwriters of PA Inc.; Bristol building inspectors Harry J. Williams, Michael McLaughlin and Paul Buchhofer; and Township Manager Jeffrey Bartlett.

Paradigm seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, counsel fees, and declaratory and injunctive relief.

The complaint was filed on Nov. 1 at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia by Colmar, Pa. attorney Edward J. Carreiro, Jr.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-06377-RB. 

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