PITTSBURGH – A Pittsburgh couple who paid $1.3 million for their retirement home are seeking full restitution of that payment, claiming a mutual mistake between themselves and the sellers as to not knowing the property was soon to be used by a Western Pennsylvania power company, as part of a route for directing electricity through the placement of high-voltage power lines.

Charles Johnson and Laura Andracchio Johnson of Pittsburgh filed suit in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Feb. 9 versus Michael Fetterolf and Dawn Fetterolf, both of Somerset County.

The complaint explains the plaintiffs bring the instant action on the ground of “mutual mistake”, in agreeing to buy real property from the defendants for $1.3 million. However, the suit claims both parties were mistaken about the value, because only seven weeks prior to sale, Duquesne Light Company (DLC) had finalized a map for a high-voltage transmission line route through the property.

“DLC prepared its notice to defendants by May 18, 2017, while defendants still owed the property, but claims it delayed mailing the notice to defendants until June 2, shortly after they sold their property to plaintiffs. Plaintiffs would not have agreed to buy defendants’ property had they been duly notified of DLC’s plans, notice or map, all of which existed at the time of purchase,” the suit reads.

Intending to retire there, the Johnsons bought the property in Indiana Township on May 22, 2017, a 19-acre section of mostly-wooded acres designated “Clean & Green”, pasture land, a stone house and reclaimed Amish barn.

On April 5, 2015, DLC finalized a map for a new high-voltage transmission line route through the property and in close proximity to their residence – a map which was not published or in any way made public until June 2, 2017. The map showed three possible routes DLC intended to direct electric power through the Johnsons’ property.

“Both the preferred and alternate routes through defendants’ property would require the deforestation of defendants’ property and would destroy its aesthetics, its peaceful environment, any owners’ quiet enjoyment of the property, and many other unique and desirable characteristics inherent in the property, which led plaintiffs to buy it. The preferred and alternate routes through the property may also pose a health hazard, according to studies on the impact of residing in close proximity to high-voltage power lines,” the suit states.

If DLC had mailed the June 2 notice any time before May 22, 2017, the suit claims the defendants would have been required to disclose the notice and April 5 map to the plaintiffs, as this was material information negatively impacting their property.

According to the lawsuit, the June 2 notice was forwarded to the Fetterolfs at their new residence, rather than the Johnsons at the property in question. Though when Laura Johnson contacted the Fetterolfs to ask if they received the notice, they allegedly claimed they did not.

During a later open house on Oct. 4, 2017, where DLC presented the final route map, Laura Johnson asked DLC’s project manager whether it sent its June 2 notice to 235 Ridgehaven Lane. The manager responded that yes, it had sent that notice to the Fetterolfs at that address, because they were the owners when the mailing list was prepared.

“DLC’s project manager also confirmed that the notice sent to the Fetterolfs had not been returned to him,” the suit says.

The suit claims that since neither the plaintiffs nor defendants knew of the proposed power line routes at the time of the property's sale, that the transaction should be rendered null and void.

For a count of mutual mistake, the plaintiffs are seeking an order declaring their contract to purchase the defendants’ property null and void, or rescinding the contract, due to mutual mistake of a material fact, that defendants are still the rightful owners of the property, and requiring defendants to repay plaintiffs all monies paid to defendants to purchase the property ($1.3 million); and any further relief the Court deems appropriate.

The plaintiffs are represented by Stanley M. Stein of Stanley M. Stein Law, in Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas case GD-18-001981

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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