High Court Orders Case Be Re-Opened

BERLIN – A lawsuit between an Ocean Pines marina and a contractor who built its allegedly defective boat slips was re-opened in Worcester County Circuit Court this week after the state’s Court of Special Appeals last week overturned the lower court’s ruling to dismiss the case in favor of the defendants.

In August 2006, the Pines Point Marina council of condominium unit owners filed suit against M.V. Ocean Pines Limited Partnership, the developer of the marina, Rehak Floating Docks, the subcontractor hired to construct the marina’s 211 docks, and Topper Industries, the company that manufactured and supplied the 211 docks, citing their faulty construction. However, the Worcester County Circuit Court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, effectively dismissing the suit, because the condominium association’s corporate charter had been forfeited at the time the complaint was filed.

The Pines Point Marina appealed the Circuit Court’s decision, citing case law regarding condominium associations and councils of unit owners’ abilities to bring lawsuits regardless of their corporate status. Pines Point also appealed the lower court’s ruling on the three-year statute of limitations, citing its amended complaints were filed within the prescribed time frame.

Last week, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Pines Point, agreeing the condo association was within their right to file the complaint against the defendants. This week, the case was re-opened at the Circuit Court level.

In 1999, Pines Point Marina, a small community in Ocean Pines with four dwelling units, two commercial units and 211 boat slips, incorporated as a council of condominium owners. Between 1999 and 2005, Pines Point entered into contracts to develop the marina with M.V. Ocean Pines LLP, which, in turn, subcontracted the installation of 211 floating boat docks with Rehak Floating Docks. Rehak entered its own agreement with Topper Industries to manufacture and supply the floating docks.

During the fall of 2003, while the development of the marina was still in progress, a series of strong coastal storms hit the mid-Atlantic area, the worst of which was Tropical Storm Isabel. As a result of the storms, Pines Point Marina officials began to notice that many of the floating docks installed by Rehak began to come loose and fall apart.

Nearly three years later, in August 2006, Pines Point Marina filed a complaint against the three defendants in Circuit Court alleging poor workmanship and defective construction of the marina. However, the defendants sought summary judgment in the case because of the timing of the complaint and the corporate status of the condo association.

The complaint was filed in August 2006, but the state’s Department of Assessment and Taxation (SDAT) had forfeited Pines Point Marina’s corporate charter in October 2005 for failing to file required state tax returns. Pines Point’s corporate status was not revived until December 2006, well after the suit against M.V. Ocean Pines and Rehak was filed in August of that year.

The Worcester County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the defendants and dismissed the case because of the forfeit status of Pines Point at the time the suit was filed and because of statute of limitations issues. However, the Court of Special Appeals last week reversed the lower court’s ruling, effectively re-opening the case at the circuit court level.

Essentially, the high court ruled Pines Point Marina maintains the ability to file suit, even as an unincorporated entity, citing pages and pages of case law regarding condominium associations. In terms of the statute of limitations issues, the appeals court ruled Pines Point filed the original suit in a timely manner despite its changing status throughout the process.