This from Courthouse News....(CN) - The sellers of homes do not have to disclose "psychological stigmas," such as murders, to prospective buyers, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled.
The state's highest court unanimously ruled
Monday in favor of Kathleen and Joseph Jacono regarding the sale of
their Delaware County house in 2007 for $610,000.
Janet Milliken, sued the couple for failing to disclose that a previous
owner, Konstantinos Koumboulis, killed himself and his wife in the house
in February 2006. Miliken said she learned of the deaths from a
neighbor after she moved in from California.
She sued for fraud,
negligent misrepresentation and violations of state consumer protection
laws. The trial court later tossed the suit, holding the Jacanos had no
duty to disclose the deaths and that they made no misrepresentation of
material fact to support the claims.
Writing for the state
Supreme Court, Justice J. Michael Eakin agreed with the lower court that
the deaths were not material facts that should have been disclosed. He
noted that "the varieties of traumatizing events" that could happen at a
property "are endless."
"Efforts to define those that would
warrant mandatory disclosure would be a Sisyphean task," the eight-page
opinion stated. "One cannot quantify the psychological impact of
different genres of murder, or suicide - does a bloodless death by
poisoning or overdose create a less significant 'defect' than a bloody
one from a stabbing or shooting? How would one treat other violent
crimes such as rape, assault, home invasion, or child abuse? What if the
killings were elsewhere, but the sadistic serial killer lived there?
What if satanic rituals were performed in the house?"
such events would disturb most people and make them not want to live in
the house, the tragic events are not defects in the structure itself,
"The occurrence of a tragic event inside a house
does not affect the quality of the real estate, which is what seller
disclosure duties are intended to address," the opinion stated. "We are
not prepared to set a standard under which the visceral impact an event
has on the populace serves to gauge whether its occurrence constitutes a
material defect in property. Such a standard would be impossible to
apply with consistency and would place an unmanageable burden on
sellers, resulting in disclosures of tangential issues that threaten to
bury the pertinent information that disclosures are intended to convey."
anything, the passage of time may make such events "historical
curiosities" that "may even increase the value of the property," Eakin