Property owner held in civil contempt

119 Ramapo Avenue, the damaged property. Image Credit: Google Maps

Property owner blocked neighbor’s contractors from completing agreed repairs. In 2005, Mauro Palladino, without permits from the Department of Buildings, installed a pool, a fence, and a wall in the backyard of his Staten Island home. Palladino’s construction caused stormwater to flood the neighboring backyard of a home owned by Nicola Mezzacappa.  In 2008, Mezzacappa, sued Palladino for the damage to Mezzacappa’s property. The neighbors settled the lawsuit in 2011.  As part of the settlement, Palladino agreed to undertake the necessary remedial work and Mezzacappa agreed to provide Palladino and his contractors reasonable access to his property. Palladino had four to six months from the settlement to get Buildings Department approvals, and four to six months to complete the work.

When the work stalled, Mezzacappa moved to hold Palladino in civil contempt. The Supreme Court denied the motion, finding that Mezzacappa’s 32 complaints to Building effectively inhibited the Palladino’s work. In 2017, the court issued a secondary order, directing Mezzacappa to provide reasonable access to his property so Palladino could complete the work.

When Mezzacappa failed to provide access, Palladino moved to hold Mezzacappa in civil contempt. The Supreme Court agreed with Palladino and found Mezzacappa in contempt of both the 2011 settlement and the 2017 court order to provide access to his property. The court imposed a $250 fine plus costs and attorneys’ fees, but directed that the contempt motion be purged if Mezzacappa allowed Palladino’s workers to access the property.

Mezzacappa appealed. The Appellate Division, Second Department, ruled in favor of Palladino. The Appellate Division found that Mezzacappa was largely responsible for the delays by repeatedly filing Buildings Department complaints.

Mezzacappa v. Palladino, 118 N.Y.S.3d 152 (2d Dep’t 2020).

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason is a former CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2019.)


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