Court rules in favor of ATMA
The major portion of the Antrim Township Municipal Authority civil case in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas was settled recently. Judge Richard J. Walsh released his opinion and order Feb. 22 on the action filed by Michael F. Ronca and Sons, Inc., Bethlehem. ATMA, named the defendant, was sued for $400,000 because of unplanned excavation costs when Ronca constructed an 8.5-mile gravity and pressure sewer extension system from Kauffman to Greencastle in 2000.
Ronca alleged ATMA breached two contracts, so the authority moved for partial summary judgment. ATMA solicitor Linus Fenicle informed board members Feb. 27 of the good news.
"The judge found in favor of Antrim," he said. "This was just one part of the case, but it was the key."
The two parties have additional claims against each other in the neighborhood of $100,000. Fenicle predicted ATMA would be in good shape with the outcome of those opinions.
Ronca won the construction bid in 2000, and because of the abundance of rock, not accurately portrayed on an addendum to the contract, spent a sizable sum of money in clearing the land. The contract stated the survey information carried no warranty. On July 15, 2002, the company filed a complaint in Franklin County. It amended the complaint on Aug. 25, 2003. In 2004 the discovery phase began for the plaintiff and defendant.
On May 24, 2011 Antrim moved for partial summary judgment. After some legal wrangling, the two sides presented oral arguments to Walsh on Oct. 6, 2011.
Walsh addressed the claims of breach of contract, constructive fraud, unjust enrichment and mutual mistake. He agreed the contract placed the risk of site conditions on Ronca, and that the company did not show a positive misrepresentation by the authority, so no claim of fraud was valid. His decision added that since a written contract existed, Antrim did not benefit from an unfair financial gain. Finally, the contract could not be reformed after the fact since both sides did not agree there was a mistake.
His order was that the counts be dismissed "with prejudice."
"I think the judge wrote a very well-written decision," Fenicle told ATMA members Rodney Eberly, Elwood Myers, Chad Murray, Bob Schemmerling and Rick Baer. "It took him a while, but he did a good job. It didn't help this guy that he took 10 years to move ahead on this."
Fenicle also believed that if Ronca wanted to appeal, it would have to get the permission of Walsh.