Court for Prince George's County Case No. CAL1430313
Deborah S., Kehoe, Shaw Geter, JJ.
Deborah S., J.
2011, Joseph Basso, the appellant, purchased a home in
Hyattsville from appellees Javier Szuchman and Jose
Rodriguez, both licensed real estate agents, who were agents
of appellee Juan Campos, d/b/a Campos & Associates
Realty, a real estate broker. Within weeks of the closing,
Basso's basement flooded, and it continued to flood
regularly in the following months and years. Basso sued the
appellees in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County
for negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent
misrepresentation, violations of the Maryland Consumer
Protection Action ("CPA"), Md. Code (1975, 2013
Repl. Vol.), sections 13-101-13-501 of the Commercial Law
Article ("CL"), and, as to Campos, negligent hiring
and supervision and vicarious liability for the tortious
conduct of Szuchman and Rodriguez. The appellees' motion
for summary judgment was denied.
case was tried to a jury. At the close of Basso's case,
the court granted the appellees' motion for judgment on
all counts. Basso appeals, presenting two questions, which we
have reordered and rephrased:
I. Did the trial court err by precluding his expert home
inspector from expressing an opinion on whether the basement
of the home would have flooded during the period when
Szuchman and Rodriguez owned the property?
II. Did the trial court err by granting the appellees'
motion for judgment?
following reasons, we answer the first question in the
affirmative and shall reverse the judgment of the circuit
court and remand for further proceedings. In light of our
resolution of that issue, we need not address the second
29, 2011, Szuchman and Rodriguez purchased a 2-story
single-family home at 6010 39th Avenue in
Hyattsville ("the Property"). They bought the
Property for $119, 000, at a foreclosure sale. The Property,
built in 1938, is a 1, 300 square-foot bungalow-style home
that had an unfinished walk-up basement.
and Rodriguez planned to renovate and resell the Property for
a profit. They hired contractors who replaced the roof and
all the windows, remodeled the kitchen, and refinished the
hardwood floors. In the basement, they installed drywall,
replaced and relocated the sump pump, constructed a bathroom,
and installed wall-to-wall carpeting.
and Rodriguez listed the Property for sale on September 25,
2011, roughly two months after they bought it. Basso viewed
the Property at the end of September, made an offer, and, on
October 2, 2011, entered into a contract to purchase the
Property for $260, 000. The contract was contingent upon a
October 2, 2011, Szuchman and Rodriguez signed the Maryland
Residential Property Disclosure and Disclaimer Statement
("Disclosure Statement"). As pertinent, they
represented that they had owned the Property for 3 months and
had no "actual knowledge" of any "leaks or
evidence of moisture" in the basement.
October 13, 2011, Basso's home inspection was completed.
His home inspector did not note in his report that there was
any evidence of flooding or water seepage in the basement. He
did note, however, that the exterior basement stairwell drain
should be kept clear of debris to prevent water from entering
the basement under the exterior basement door.
sale closed on November 14, 2011 and Basso moved in, along
with a housemate.
December 7, 2011, while Basso was traveling for work in San
Diego, his housemate called to alert him that "there was
water in the basement." The housemate believed that the
water was entering from under the exterior basement door
jamb, at the bottom of the exterior stairwell. Basso hired
MCC Services, a water remediation company, to clean up the
months later, on March 1, 2012, Basso noticed that the
carpeting in the basement was "wet along the . . . back
wall and the side wall." He pulled up the carpet and
could see "areas where there was obviously water seeping
in from the foundation." He also noticed upon pulling up
the carpet that there was "an area of concrete that[
was] a different color, " with some of the concrete
appearing to be "newer." Basso was not aware that
any concrete work had been done in the basement during the
April 18, 2012, Basso obtained from the Bartley Corporation
an estimate of $19, 649 for concrete work on the Property to
address the water infiltration problems. He decided not to go
forward with the work at that time.
2012 and 2013, the basement at the Property flooded
"[e]very time there was a substantial rainstorm or, . .
. continued [sic] rain over a few days, any time that . . .
[it rained] a half inch . . . and up[.]" The water would
"seep in from . . . numerous places along the back wall
and the wall where the door was . . . [a]nd depending on the
amount of rain or the amount of ground saturation, it would
just keep going."
2013, Basso became concerned about mold in his basement and
hired Larry Hammond, a certified home inspector and certified
mold remediation contractor, to perform a "General
Grading and Water Infiltration Inspection." Hammond did
not detect any mold in the basement. The cost for the
inspection was $350.
April 2014, Basso contracted for B-Dry, a water-proofing
company, to install French drains along the inside of the
exterior walls of the basement and to take other measures to
permanently solve the water infiltration issues. B-Dry offers a lifetime warranty for its
services. In May 2014, Basso hired another company to replace
the exterior basement door and door frame.
November 13, 2014, Basso filed suit against the appellees.
The operative complaint is the third amended complaint, filed
on February 16, 2015. Basso alleges that when Szuchman and
Rodriguez signed the Disclosure Statement on October 2, 2011,
they had actual knowledge that the basement area flooded
repeatedly and that they had attempted to conceal this defect
by removing bushes that lined the side of the home and
replacing them with poured concrete. Counts I and II asserted
claims for negligent and fraudulent misrepresentations,
respectively; Counts III, IV, and V asserted claims for
breach of the CPA; and Counts VI and VII asserted claims
against Campos for vicarious liability and negligent hiring
and supervision. Basso sought more than $250, 000 in
compensatory damages and $800, 000 in punitive damages, plus
17, 2015, Basso designated two expert witnesses: Howard
Phoebus, a real estate agent, as an expert on valuation of
real property, as well as the standard of care; and Larry
Hammond, who, as mentioned, is a certified home inspector, as
a standard of care and causation expert. Basso specified that
Hammond was expected to testify that the appellees "knew
about the regular water intrusions into the basement area . .
. and [that] rather than try to appropriately put money to
fix the problem, ...