Pa. Woman Fights State’s Disclosure Laws

January 29, 2013

A Pennsylvania woman is appealing a lower court’s decision to the state’s Supreme Court over a seller and real estate agent who she says failed to disclose to her that a murder-suicide that had taken place in the home that she had bought. 

Janet Milliken purchased the home in Thornton, Pa., for $610,000 in June 2007. A few weeks later after moving in, she learned that a murder-suicide had taken place in the home the year before. 

Milliken sued the seller and real estate agent for fraud and misrepresentation. But a trial judge said that under the state’s laws the seller and agent were not required to disclose what had happened. In December 2012, a state appeals court affirmed that decision as well.

Milliken filed a petition to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania last week to try to argue the case further. 

“[We] hope to have Pennsylvania recognize that having a horrific event occur within a property can be just as damaging and troubling to a future home owner as a physical defect, or perhaps even more so," says Tim Rayne, Milliken’s attorney. "Having a gunshot murder-suicide committed within the home is much more devastating than having a small leak concealed by the previous home owner. Physical defects can be fixed. Troubling events that could and did occur in this home could never go away." 

However, Abraham Reich, the attorney for the home sellers and their RE/MAX real estate agent, says that the state does not require such disclosures and has long held that decision. “The majority, en banc [full-court] opinion of the Superior Court was well reasoned and consistent with years of industry practice in Pennsylvania,” Reich says. 

Source: “Pa. Home Owner Sues Seller over Home's Bloody Past,” ABC News Radio (Jan. 28, 2013)

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