Five one-time tenants of the Liberty Warehouse in Durham are taking building owner Greenfire Development to court in what may be the most predictable lawsuit ever.
The plaintiffs—Andrew Preiss of ARP Design Studio, Donna Sutton of Southern Portico Inc, Deborah Pratt, Adelaide Banks of Read Seed Inc. and James Nuss—were all renting space in the converted tobacco warehouse in May 2011 when a portion of the roof caved in during heavy rains. On Tuesday afternoon, all five filed separate lawsuits against the beleaguered development company for alleged negligence related to the collapse.
The court documents themselves read like an abstract of the Warehouse's most recent history. Purchased by Greenfire in 2006 for $3,500,000. Inspected in March of 2011 by the Durham Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services after numerous complaints from tenants about the failing roof. In the span of the next two months: Condemned. Declared unsafe. Crash.
Now the plaintiffs want compensation for their alleged losses. In court documents, each now claims that Greenfire officials, in their capacity as landlord, failed to take "reasonable care" in the maintenance of the the warehouse roof. All five are asking for compensation in excess of $10,000, plus punitive damages.
Calls to Greenfire Development officials for comment were not immediately returned. As for the Liberty Warehouse, Greenfire Managing Partner Paul Smith had previously told the Indy that the company is committed to finding a viable use for the 2.6 acre property. The Durham City-County Planning Department declared the southern portion of the building in a state of "demolition by neglect" eaerlier this year. The company has until October 15 to complete repairs. The northern portion of the property is currently being rented out as storage space.