Trials & Litigation

Appeals court reverses $68K verdict against lawyer over claimed termite damage in home prior to sale

Updated: When Sarah Seitz first saw her dream home, it contained only a couch in the living room, a spare tile in one bedroom closet and some window coverings on the floor of another bedroom closet.

All, it turned out, concealed termite damage in the home that attorney Anne C. Harvey and her mother sold to Seitz and her husband, the disabled military veteran told an Ohio jury. Harvey, who did not reveal any termite damage on a disclosure form for the home sale, was found liable for fraudulent misrepresentation, concealment and disclosure and ordered to pay $68,000 in damages, the Dayton Daily News reports.

Harvey “knew, but she tried to claim she didn’t know about it,” said attorney Craig Matthews, who represented Seitz. “And the jury didn’t believe her.”

Harvey’s counsel unsuccessfully sought to have the fact that Harvey is a Dayton-area lawyer kept from the Montgomery County jury. But Judge James W. Luse did nix the punitive damages sought by the plaintiff.

An Ohio appellate court, however, saw the situation differently. In January, the Second District Court of Appeals reversed the jury verdict for Seitz and remanded the case for a new trial.

That is a victory for Harvey and her mother, said attorney Michael McNamee, who represents both.

“What this decision means for my clients is that they have been vindicated, as the plaintiffs did not prove that my clients perpetuated any type of fraud,” McNamee told Dayton Daily News in February. “And with that decision, we are most pleased and quite confident it will stand.”

Matthews said the Seitzes are eager for a retrial.

“The court of appeals based its reversal in part because it questioned the sufficiency of our evidence regarding the Seitzes’ reliance upon the incorrect disclosure form and in part because it questioned the sufficiency of evidence that the termite damage existed at the time Harvey owned the house,” Matthews told the newspaper. “We believe we can address both of these concerns during the next trial.”

Updated on June 15, 2015 to include appellate court decision and related comment by Harvey’s lawyer.

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