A Pawleys Island couple who believed they bought a house with an elevator were awarded $ 4.4 million by a jury that found the seller did not disclose that the feature was actually a converted dumbwaiter that was not suitable for human use.
The verdict warns home sellers, attorney Chris Romeo said, that defects are not the only things that must be disclosed under the state’s Residential Property Terms and Conditions Disclosure Act, particularly on a booming real estate market like that of the South Carolina coast. .
“A lot of people think it’s enough to let buyers know about home issues,” said Romeo, who represented the Steurers in the Georgetown County case. “You must also inform them of any substantial changes that have been made to the property.”
Mate and Holly Steurer bought the beachfront home in 2015 from Patricia Lacy, who featured “the private elevator” in real estate listings. Court documents show that throughout the sale process, Lacy never told the Steurers the story of the elevator, which was originally used to move groceries from the ground floor to the kitchen to the ‘stage.
The first time Mate Steurer used the elevator, the support cables broke and the structure crashed into a concrete slab below. He sustained significant injuries as a result of the incident and had to suspend his career as an Alaska Airways pilot for about three years.
“He needed significant care and he was completely unable to enjoy life the way we were used to,” his wife said in an affidavit. “I can tell he suffers a lot, which he will have for the rest of his life.”
On May 19, a jury determined that Lacy should have told the Steurers that the elevator had once been a dumbwaiter. The jury also found that the Steurers were at fault in part because they had not had the elevator inspected before purchasing the house. This brought down an initial verdict of nearly $ 6.8 million to $ 4.4 million.
David Banner, the lawyer representing Lacy, said his client was considering appealing the verdict.
“It was a very moving case,” Banner said. “They are very good Steurers, and Mr. Steurer suffered significant injuries which were very unfortunate. My client was an 82 year old widow who felt deep in her heart that she had done nothing wrong. . I knew it from the start. Was going to be an all or nothing thing. “
Romeo said a confidential deal was made with the real estate agent who Lacy testified advised not to disclose the elevator’s past as a dumbwaiter.
“My clients have two boys – one was four at the time, the other seven – and there is a lot of loss of memories of Dad during his recovery,” Romeo said. “It really touched the jury. The gist of that verdict was really the saving of pain and suffering, and the loss of memories.”
In addition to the jury’s verdict, Romeo filed court documents on May 24, claiming nearly $ 1.6 million in attorney fees and costs.
To reach David Troglodyte at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_