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CCOC Decision Summary

#12-09, Soliman v. Madison Park Condominium (February 25, 2010) (Panel: Shontz, Greenspan, Oxendine)

Soliman complained that her unit had been severely damaged after years of roof leaks, and that the Condominium had been negligent and dilatory in properly repairing the roof.  The Condominium admitted that there had been roof leaks and denied negligence, stating the roof had been replaced a few years previously, that when it leaked again the contractor was in bankruptcy and could not honor his warranty, that it was necessary to find a new contractor and replace the roof again, and that the dispute should be continued until the repairs were completed and the full extent of damage to Soliman's unit determined.

After the Condominium stated the repairs were complete, Soliman submitted her bills to the board of directors, and they totaled approximately $8000.  The board rejected most of her claims and offered $3300, which Soliman rejected.  The matter then came on for a hearing.  At the hearing, Soliman claimed damages of $14,300: $4000 for repairs, $6000 for loss of use, $1300 for mold inspections and $3000 for attorneys fees, although she was not being represented by an attorney in the CCOC case. 

Approximately 3 weeks before the hearing, the Condominium made an offer to Soliman to pay her $13,180, and it advised her that if she rejected the offer it would seek attorney's fees against her.  She rejected the offer.

After hearing the evidence at the hearing the Panel awarded Soliman $3300.  She was not entitled to loss of use, because her job required her to be out of town almost all week during the period in question, and she lived in her unit on weekends.  She was not entitled to attorney's fees because she was not represented by an attorney in the CCOC proceeding.  Finally, many of the repairs she paid for were not caused by the water leaks.

At the hearing the Condominium requested an award of $7228 in attorney's fees under Section 10B-13(d) of the Montgomery County Code on the grounds that Soliman acted frivolously or in bad faith by rejecting the settlement offer and mediation. 

The Panel found that some attorney's fees should be awarded against Soliman because the offer (over $13000) was far in excess of the actual damages Soliman could reasonably have hoped to prove at the hearing.  The Panel emphasized, however, it was not penalizing Soliman merely because she rejected a settlement offer.  However, the Panel concluded that Soliman should only be assessed the number of hours needed to prepare for and appear at the hearing, which it determined to be 11.5 hours.  This is the number of hours of work that could have been avoided if she had accepted the offer.  The Panel then determined that the reasonable hourly fee for such a case was $250.  The Panel therefore ordered the sum of $2875 deducted from the award of $3300, and ordered the Condominium to pay Soliman the sum of $425.00.

 

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