Sisters sue Scranton over demolition of family home
Two women who inherited a condemned Scranton home filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging its code enforcement office demolished the property without advising them it would be torn down.
Kelly Klee-medici and Kimberly Klee-rodrigues, the children of the late James and Winifred Klee, claim the city violated their due process rights when it demolished the home at rear 823 Moosic St., causing them financial and emotional harm.
The suit, filed by Moosic attorney Joseph Mariotti, hinges on a dispute over whether the city was required to notify the women that the home was scheduled for demolition after they inherited it from their mother, who died in October 2017. It names the city and Patrick Hinton, director of the Department of Licensing, Inspections and Permits, as defendants.
Hinton referred questions to the city solicitor, Jessica Eskra, who declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
In a prior interview, Hinton said the home was condemned in 2011, while it was still owned by James and Winifred Klee. The city followed required procedures leading up to the demolition, including posting the building with condemned signs in 2011 and 2016, and mailing notices of code violations, he said.
The home sat vacant for years before the city demolished it in July. Mariotti said the Klee sisters were publicly identified as heirs to their mother’s estate in October 2017. He contends the city had a duty to conduct a public records search, which would have identified the sisters as the new owners of the home, and notify them it planned to tear it down.
“The estate had plans to clear it up,” Mariotti said. “To come in 10 months later and knock it down without telling the new owners and giving them a chance to remedy things does not seem right.”
The lawsuit notes the city faced a similar situation in 2009, when it was sued for demolishing a property that had been purchased in a tax sale without notifying the new owner it was taking the action. That suit was dismissed in 2013, after a federal judge ruled city officials had governmental immunity.
Although the city prevailed in that case, Mariotti said he believes it resulted in a new policy to search public records before demolishing a structure. The city failed to do that in this case.
The lawsuit says the city deprived the Klees of the value of the property and caused them embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.