Richard Cotromano, et al. v. United Technologies Corporation, d/b/a Pratt & Whitney; and Joseph Adinolfe, et al. v. United Technologies Corporation, d/b/a Pratt & Whitney, United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division (2018)
This case involved residential properties within a proposed 60-square-mile class area in western Palm Beach County known as the Acreage. The property owners in the proposed class area claimed property value diminution due to the alleged threat of contamination from Pratt and Whitney’s jet manufacturing facility located north of the proposed class area.
“The Court also finds the secondary foundation of [opposing expert’s] diminution opinion – the sales trend analysis — to be fundamentally flawed. [Opposing expert] admits his methodology for calculating “impaired values” from sales trend data in this area is not statistically rigorous or reliable, and admits there are ways to validate such an analysis that he did not perform in this case. His methodology oversimplifies the complex factors that influence home pricing trends, as it makes no accommodation for consideration of important individual variables that typically influence home values, such as age, size, condition or property uses. Nor did [opposing expert] explain a logical basis for drawing a causal inference from any perceived price trends in the time frame examined. [Opposing expert] admits a “widening gap” in average price per square foot started to occur in the Acreage as early as 2007 or 2008, when a sudden economic downturn in the real estate market had an undisputed effect on Florida real estate markets state-wide, and he recognized that this event preceded the proposed class cut-off dates employed in his analysis.” Memorandum and Order
“Thus, the Court agrees that [opposing expert] cannot reliably use sales trend analysis to determine a single percentage diminution for the entire proposed class area, containing almost 18,000 properties (15,000 under the secondary definition proposed), and that the mass appraisal methodology proposed by him simply does not fit under the facts of this case. The affected community is not remarkably homogeneous, as he originally claimed, but rather includes a wide variety and scale of homes (equestrian farms, up-scale villas, simple ranch houses) of various ages, sizes and conditions – diverse properties which are not logically impacted in the same way by the alleged environmental stigma which Plaintiffs contend attaches by virtue of their general proximity to contaminated properties at the UTC site or at localized areas within the Acreage.” Memorandum and Order
“Due to the scientific unreliability of [opposing expert’s] sales trend analysis and CV survey results, the Court grants UTC’s motion to exclude [opposing expert’s] proffered testimony on class-wide diminution in property values.” Memorandum and Order
“The Plaintiffs’ Motion to Certify a Litigation Class as against Defendant United Technologies Corporation is DENIED.” Memorandum and Order
All of the issues related to the [opposing expert’s] sales trends analysis cited above were addressed in expert reports, deposition testimony and hearing testimony of Dr. Thomas O. Jackson (January, 2018).