New Castle News

February 8, 2014

Court denies city’s petition in McGaffic case

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The city of New Castle has lost another round in a case regarding the disposition of a downtown property.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week denied the city’s petition for appeal of a 4-3 Commonwealth Court decision.

Commonwealth Court ruled last July that Robert W. McGaffic and George Love have standing to recover payment for breach of contract concerning the former Centennial Building.

The property at the corner of East Washington and Mill streets is now part of Cascade Center at the Riverplex. McGaffic and Love are the previous owners of the property.

Commonwealth Court’s decision was a reversal of Senior Judge Michael J. Wherry’s ruling in Lawrence County court.

Attorney Jonathan Solomon, who represents McGaffic, believes this week’s decision ends the case.

“I think it’s the end of the road,” he said Friday.

The Supreme Court’s denial, he said, means the Commonwealth Court decision stands.

“And we have a judgment against the city of New Castle.”

That judgment — as of September — is $2,373,342.88, he said. In addition to the building cost, the figure includes attorney fees and interest that has accrued over the years. The case originated in 1978 when the plaintiffs filed suit.

In 1994, a board of viewers valued the building at $184,000 retroactive to April 12, 1973.

Attorney Samuel Kamin, counsel for the city, reacted, “At this point, we’re analyzing the decision.”

He said Wherry’s decision only addressed the issue of standing.

“It did not address the other issues.”

Kamin said there are other issues still pending. One is whether the city breached a 1977 “closeout agreement” with the New Castle Redevelopment Authority.

In his ruling in December 2011, Wherry dismissed McGaffic and Love’s claim that the city had breached a contract relating to the closeout agreement.

The agreement stated the city would assume debts and liabilities of the redevelopment authority. The case before Wherry was whether the plaintiffs were intended beneficiaries of the closeout agreement.

Kamin argued in the city’s petition to the Supreme Court that the majority opinion of Commonwealth Court departs from established previously by the state Supreme and Superior courts and Commonwealth Court.