Property ownership entails maintenance, or in its absence, the ownership of less valuable property. This all appears straightforward enough. But unfortunately, some property owners are slow to acknowledge any responsibility for their own lack of maintenance. Instead, they attempt to externalize the costs of their own neglected maintenance onto others. By blaming others for the damage caused by simple failure to take care of one’s own property, there is the chance to “have your cake and eat it too”—don’t incur maintenance costs up front, and have the damage repaired at others’ expense on the back end.
This was the defense theme in the case of 3310 Nicollet Owners Association v. Steiner Construction Services et al. In this case, attorney Deborah Eckland expertly utilized experts and construction firm principals to help “unweave” difficult and intertwined lines of causation to bring the matter to a successful resolution at mediation. In particular, there was plainly property damage and, on the surface, it would have appeared identical whether caused by means and methods employed in original construction, or by the owner’s failure to maintain the property. But below the surface, facts about some of the alleged property damage tended to make it more likely to be the result of failed or inadequate or non-existent maintenance practices. After full discovery, it was clear that actual maintenance practices were inadequate or non-existent. With nuanced but clear, direct, and persuasive expert factual and legal analyses to “unweave” the easy-to-blur causal lines, attorney Eckland was able to settle the matter for a fraction of what the owner was seeking in damages.