Dave Carey Successfully Defends Property Owner; Penalty Voided
Judge Agrees with Carey's Argument in Court
Brown, Brown & Young principal attorney David E. Carey recently successfully defended the owner of a 120-lot mobile home park in Cecil County, which had begun to have problems with septic system overflows, and which was being threatened by the State of Maryland with a civil penalty costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Responding first to the situation, Carey first guided his client to initiate the construction of a million-dollar wastewater treatment facility for the complex, designed to state specifications, that will when completed fully handle all sewage and wastewater issues for the property for the foreseeable future, completely complying with environmental and County regulations.
Then, Carey successfully fought off and voided an attempt by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to levy a significant fine and penalty on his client, which would have had to have been paid by the tenants of the mobile home park.
"The MDE inspectors had been out to the property several times and had cited the septic system overflows, but they didn't seem to appreciate that my client had not only diligently cleaned the spills up, but had gone that extra step of commissioning a state-of-the-art treatment plant that would completely solve the problem henceforth, while paying to have all the problematic septic systems pumped out and their effluent hauled to a public treatment facility. I guess the MDE just wanted to punish my client!" Carey adds.
The MDE sought to impose a five- or six-figure civil penalty on the park.
"Many if not most of the tenants at the mobile home park pay about $240 a month rent; they are on fixed incomes and that's their limit. Since the sewage problem was of course ultimately caused by the tenants, a penalty like this would be passed along to the tenants, who could ill afford to pay such a hefty increase," Carey states.
Carey attempted to negotiate with the MDE, but the final offer of a $330,000 fine was obviously not acceptable. As Carey relates, "We felt that we had done no wrong and actually a great deal of good; why should we have to pay such a fine? Why burden and maybe drive away our tenants? It just didn't make any sense to us."
Unlike most matters of this nature, the case actually went to trial, although not before a final MDE offer to lower the penalty to $80,000 was also rejected. After two days of hearings in the Circuit Court for Cecil County, during which the MDE again requested the full $330,000 civil penalty, Judge Jane Cairns Murray agreed with Carey's arguments and assessed no fine.
The judge specifically cited the investment that Carey's client was making in the property and the affect that the imposition of a fine would have on the rent paid by the tenants — which of course was the text of Dave Carey's argument.
Congratulations to Dave Carey for a job well done!