With home crumbling, couple sues downhill developer

Barbara Christian
May 4, 2011

A Chagrin Falls couple filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court April 28, claiming their home and property were damaged when a developer cleared a hillside below them.

The lawsuit was filed by Terry and David Mitchell against Robert Vitt, of Silver Leaf Development Inc., which plans to build River Walk at Chagrin Falls, a townhome development on West Orange Street.

Hillside excavation took place last fall, said Mrs. Mitchell, a Realtor, and their home began revealing problems within a month or two. Cracking and fissures in the floors and walls worsened after the ground thawed, she said.

Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell are asking a jury trial for "in excess" of $500,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for each of five charges of liability, negligence, recklessness, creating a nuisance and emotional distress.

The couple's attorney, Thomas Merriman, said Monday the Village of Chagrin Falls has not been brought into the suit. He and his clients want to see how the village will respond to the situation, he said.

The village building inspector and engineer have toured the home, but there has been no follow-up, Mrs. Mitchell said.

Mr. Vitt said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment until his attorneys review it.

He said additional soils testing is to be done, but the village must review and sign off on what is to be covered in the study, then issue a permit. That is expected within a week, he said, but the actual testing will depend on the weather.

Last week, before the suit was filed, Mr. Vitt said pre-existing conditions were the cause of problems on the Mitchells' property.

The Mitchells and their daughter have moved out of the house and are staying with relatives. Mrs. Mitchell said that decision was made on advice from their engineer and because they no longer felt safe in the home.

A tour of the home Monday showed wide and deep cracks across the basement floor extending up the face of the fireplace and exterior walls. Also on the basement level, a bedroom floor slopes steeply and has sunk below the bathroom and closet area, which have separated from the bedroom at their thresholds.

Outside, the home shows cracks in the brick work and driveway. The chimney has pulled away from the house.

Mrs. Mitchell said the garage door is no longer operational and cannot be lifted manually. The far edge of her backyard, where it meets Mr. Vitt's property, developed a crevice which the developer has since filled, she said.

The Mitchells' home was built in 1967, and they have lived there for 11 years without experiencing any structural issues, she said.

According to Mrs. Mitchell, the home was inspected a year ago in preparation for obtaining a remodeling loan. The inspection reported no issues, she said.

Mrs. Mitchell said they have homeowners insurance, which covers everything from fires to floods, but it does not cover landslides.

Mr. Merriman said he could not predict when the matter would go to court. Mr. Vitt has 30 days to respond to the Mitchells' complaint and could ask for extra time.

"With home crumbling, couple sues downhill developer". Chagrin Valley Times. Retrieved December 28, 2019.

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