Rafat Azzam bought a house in northeast Washington in April 2010, and would check on the property periodically as he waited for the city to approve renovation permits. But when he showed up one day last October, he was "shocked" to find a key element missing.
The two-story house was gone.
In a complaint (PDF) filed in March in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Azzam is suing three companies that he believes had a hand in unlawfully razing his house. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell gave Azzam his first win in the case, denying (PDF) one of the defendants’ motion to dismiss.
The three defendants are CitiMortgage Inc., the bank that sold Azzam the property; Safeguard Properties Inc., the property management company that Azzam claims was working with the bank; and Rightway Development Inc., the demolition company that he believes knocked the house down.
In his complaint, Azzam doesn’t offer a theory on how the mix-up may have occurred, but he does allege that the defendants filed an application with the city to raze the house the year before. Azzam is being represented by Jonathan Davies and Sanya Sukduang of Washington’s Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, who declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Azzam is suing for $1.3 million plus punitive damages and legal fees.
Safeguard moved for a dismissal (PDF) of claims against the company, arguing that it could not be held liable because Azzam wasn’t claiming Safeguard employees knocked down the house. All three of the defendants have denied any wrongdoing.
In denying the motion on Friday, Howell disagreed, writing that Azzam had presented enough claims linking Safeguard to the property and accusing Safeguard of directing Rightway to raze the house.
“Safeguard seems to assume that it cannot incur any liability unless Azzam alleges that Safeguard physically demolished the House. That, of course, is incorrect,” Howell wrote.
Tessa Frederick of Baltimore’s Miles & Stockbridge is representing Safeguard and CitiMortgage. She could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.
Rightway is being represented by David Grimaldi of Washington’s Martell, Donnelly, Grimaldi & Gallagher. He also could not be reached for comment this morning.