SCHENECTADY — The former owner of the Union Inn has added her former attorney to her lawsuit against some developers for committing legal malpractice.
Schenectady-based attorney Andrew Healey and his law firm, Frank Putori Jr. P.C., are named in an amended lawsuit filed in Schenectady State Supreme Court earlier this month.
Lori Nevias, current attorney of former Union Inn owner Joyce Fordham, wanted to include Healey and his law firm because she said Healey failed to properly represent Fordham in her lawsuit against developers of a neighboring property.
Healey did not return multiple requests for comment.
Those developers, who are also named in the lawsuit, were Town Homes of Union Square LLC, Maddalone & Associates Inc., and a third-party defendant, J. Luke Construction Inc.
Fordham claimed the construction of that property created drainage issues, which led to flooding that destroyed her bar and forced her to close it.
Fordham is asking for $2.2 million in damages.
That lawsuit was dismissed in Jan. 2017 by state Supreme Court Justice Vito Caruso. He dismissed the suit because he said Fordham did not prove the developers weren’t making good faith improvements on their properties or that they used devices — including pipes, ditches, drains or other artificial means — to divert water toward the bar.
The lawsuit was brought back to life when the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, Third Judicial Department, reversed the lower court’s decision, claiming there were “triable issues of fact.”
Nevias claims in her lawsuit there were several things Healey failed to do to help his client. The first was not asking for an injunction on the construction of the properties and requesting a drainage system be installed.
Healey knew that a catch basin, which Nevias said would have prevented the flooding of the Union Inn, was part of the developers’ plans but was not installed until after the building was destroyed, according to Nevias.
“Had [Healey] immediately sought by order to show cause [to get] an injunction and stop work order, the motion would have been granted, and the Union Inn would have been saved,” Nevias wrote. “Had [Healey] immediately sought by order to show cause to compel [Maddalone & Associates Inc. and Town Homes] to install a catch basin on the property, the motion would have been granted and the Union Inn would have been saved.”
Nevias added that Healey “knew and should have known” that Fordham was willing to share the cost of installing the catch basin.
There was also an affidavit written by engineer Thomas Field that supported Fordham’s theory that the construction of the neighboring property led water to enter her basement.
Field wrote that he visited the construction site five times between July 2014 and November 2016. He concluded the construction by Town Homes “altered the grade and slope of the parking lot” behind its property, causing water to flow toward and pool at the Union Inn. The same thing also happened with storm runoff from the roofs of some of the Town Home buildings.
The water “served to erode and undermine the sidewalk and alley” next to the Union Inn and caused the flooding of the bar’s basement, Field said.
The Appellate Division actually cited Field’s report, along with a report from Town Homes’ engineers that claimed the water from the construction was not being directed toward the Union Inn, led to the reversal of the decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
Adam Hover, attorney for Town Homes and Maddalone & Associates, did not return requests for comment.
Nevias also claimed Healey had a conflict of interest that kept him from properly representing Fordham.
The city issued demolition and building permits to a Shelco Properties LLC, which was owned by local developer Christopher Myers, in 2012, according to the lawsuit. However, Nevias claims that while Shelco did at one point own the property, it was turned over to Town Homes by the time permits were issued.
This should have prompted Healey to ask for those permits to be revoked, and for him to include the city in the lawsuit.
The reason, Nevias claims, is because Healey didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of city officials. That’s because he was in the running to be a possible replacement for then-City Court Judge Matthew Sypniewski, who had been elected to County Court judge in November 2015. While he didn’t get that job, he was later appointed to the city Planning Commission, which he still serves on.
“How could an attorney with enough political grease not be able to get these neighboring people to put in a catch basin that would solve his client’s problem?” Nevias said. “How did he not have the ability to get things done?”
The bar, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and dates back to the 1860s, was sold by the city to local business owner Phil Ruggiero in December 2016. Ruggiero is keeping the name of the bar with plans to reopen it shortly.
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