(CN) – The city of Springfield, Mass., needlessly demolished a condominium complex and the personal belongings of its inhabitants after a tornado tore through the area last year, residents claim in Federal Court.
Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Domenic Sarno declared a state of emergency after the tornado hit Springfield on June 1, 2011, and the State Police and National Guard restricted travel to the most devastated areas, even for residents, according to the complaint.
Residents of the South Common Condominiums say Charlie Arment Trucking demolished the premises on city orders the very next day. The company removed all the debris, including “potentially salvageable items of personal property,” according to the complaint.
“No opportunity was provided to residents of the affected buildings to remove items of personal or business property, obtain independent review of the decision to demolish nor was any advance notice of the demolition of any kind provided to the residents,” according to the complaint.
Over the next month, Springfield condemned various units and buildings in the complex as “unfit for human habitation,” the action states.
In condemning and demolishing these properties, however, the city allegedly failed to give residents proper notice or an opportunity to appeal.
It also made the orders without conducting engineering studies or investigating whether the structures or their contents could be salvaged, according to the suit.
Adding insult to injury, the residents say Springfield has tried to make them cover the demolition costs with a lien on the property.
Claiming that this conduct constitutes a violation of their due-process rights, the residents seek damages. The complaint also alleges civil rights violations, conversion, negligence and trespas.
John McCarthy of Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury and Murphy represents the South Commons Condominium Association and 18 other unit owners and tenants.