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Tree damage calls into question legal ownership of Belleville property

By Molly English-Bowers | Jan 21, 2016

A St. Clair County business is suing a bank over a dispute concerning ownership of real property the plaintiff purchased but was damaged by a tree before the legal closing.

New Era Ventures LLC filed the lawsuit Jan. 4 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Providence Bank, alleging breach of contract and fraud. The defendant is the successor to Community First Bank by way of a merger that was effective July 1, the suit says.

According to the complaint, on June 15, New Era Ventures entered into a sales contract with the defendant for the purchase of 15 properties in St. Clair County. One of those properties is at 16 Concord Drive in Belleville. At the time the contract was signed, the suit says, the plaintiff was not aware the defendant was not the title owner of the properties. 

The parties closed the deal June 30. Between the time the contract was signed and the closing, a tree fell and struck the property at 16 Concord Drive, the suit says. As a result, the plaintiff claims the house will need to be completely rebuilt.

The suit alleges the tree fell June 24, the same day that the defendant acquired title to the property. The plaintiff claims the defendant knew the tree had fallen but did not inform New Era. 

After the closing, the defendant allegedly advised the plaintiff that there was no casualty insurance coverage on the property. Still, New Era says it fulfilled its obligations under the contract by paying the entire purchase price to the defendant. 

New Era Ventures says had it known a tree had fallen on the property, it would not have signed the contract. The suit says the defendant failed to deliver to the plaintiff the property in question in the same condition it was on the date of the contract. The plaintiff has asked Providence Bank to compensate it for the damage to the property, but the defendant refused.

The suit also alleges the defendant knew it was not the owner of the properties at the time the contract was signed and it led the plaintiff to believe the property in question was insured.

New Era Ventures seeks at least $50,000 for each count, as well as attorney fees, court costs and other relief the court deems proper. It is represented by attorney Sandra J. Tatoian of Mathis, Marifian & Richter Ltd. of Edwardsville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 16-L-4

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