Lawsuit filed by contractor barred from seeking Pittsburgh contracts moves to federal court

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A demolition contractor involved in the erroneous destruction of a Sheraden home in 2010 has sued the city of Pittsburgh, alleging that it was illegally barred from seeking further city work in a case that was transferred today to federal court.

John R. Deller and two Richland-based companies filed their complaint in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas last month, claiming they had never been paid $4,900 owed for the demolition of 3224 Motor St.

According to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Joshua Lyons, since the razing of that house the city has barred Mr. Deller's companies from submitting bids on other jobs without there having been any formal process.

The home's destruction became news when its owner, Lorraine Nickel of Washington, Pa., and a prospective buyer said it had been a mistake.

The city blamed Mr. Deller's firms, saying they had been told to cancel the demolition.

Mr. Dellers "said, 'This isn't my fault. I was told to knock this down. I had a contract,'" Mr. Lyons said.

The city reacted by blackballing him, he said.

"This is what the city typically does when something occurs," Mr. Lyons said. "They've threatened contractors with non-payment or with not getting contracts."

He said that the city charter requires that contractors get notice of any decision barring them from contracting.

"They never sent that notice," he said.

City Solicitor Dan Regan said the city will "certainly disagree with the allegation. The home was subject to a stop-work order and demolition injunction. Deller was properly notified. ... And for reasons unknown to us, they proceeded."

He said the city had "a legal basis" for barring Deller's firms from obtaining further contracts.

The city moved the case to U.S. District Court because it includes a claim of violation of due process.

Mr. Deller is seeking about $25,000 in damages.

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Rich Lord:, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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