Friday, August 31, 2012

City's Failure to Properly Identify Owner

City of Philadelphia v. Urban Market, Inc., 2012 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 179 (2012)
Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire
This matter addressed the issue of whether a city’s failure to properly identify the owner of a dilapidated property in a complaint seeking injunctive relief to repair the property denied that property owner of its due process rights where the property owner was aware of the complaint, and appeared in court to oppose the requested relief.  In February of 2010, the City of Philadelphia (“City”) commenced an injunction action seeking the immediate repair of a building (“Building”) titled in Urban Market Developers, Inc. (“UMD”) and situated at 5930 Walnut Street in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Although the City’s Complaint correctly identified UMD’s address, the address of the Building, and UMD’s President, Napoleon Vaughn (“Vaughn”), the Complaint incorrectly identified the property owner as “Urban Market Development, Inc.”  Despite this error, UMD defended against the action, and Vaughn appeared at three separate hearings challenging the City’s allegations that the Building was in a state of disrepair. The trial court entered judgment for the City, and ordered the immediate demolition of the Building.  UMD appealed asserting inter alia, that, as the City’s Complaint had incorrectly identified the property owner, UMD had been denied due process, and was entitled to another hearing on the matter.
On appeal, our Commonwealth Court affirmed.  In issuing its ruling the court concluded that, in order for a party to be afforded due process, it must be provided with notice of the matter, as well as an opportunity to be heard.  In this instance, the record established that UMD not only had notice of the filing of the City’s Complaint, but that it had appeared at three separate hearings on the matter and offered evidence and expert testimony in opposition to the City’s claims.  As such, the fact that the City’s Complaint incorrectly identified the property owner did not prejudice UMD, nor deny it of its due process rights.  

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