First Baptist church wins $288,300 in damage suit

A Hyde Park construction firm must pay Dorchester’s First Baptist Church $288,295 in damages after a Suffolk Superior Court jury issued a verdict in the church’s favor this week.

The owners of the church, located at the corner of Adams and Ashmont Streets, sued P. Gioioso & Sons Inc., alleging the firm was negligent while repairing and replacing water lines along parts of Adams Street, causing an Elmer Road pipe to burst and flood the church’s basement on a Sunday night in August 2005.

The company has less than a month to decide whether to appeal. “We’re going to have to let the dust settle a little bit,” said Domenic Sgambellone, the corporate controller for Gioioso.

Parishioners allege the burst pipe caused $350,000 in costs to the church, including damage to a safe containing documents dating back to 1836, two new boilers, the organ motor, the kitchen, and two bathrooms.
Karen MacNutt, an attorney and friend of the church who represented the owners in court, said with additional interest factored in to cover litigation costs, the church will have enough to cover most of the repairs. The court will likely add interest to the total because the case was first filed in 2007.

The church already has a general contractor lined up and the owners are speaking with an architect. “A project of that size you can’t just say replace this board, fix this outlet,” she said. “You need to have a coherent plan.”

The owners, the First Baptist Society of Dorchester, have already replaced the boilers, which cost $18,000, and fixed the organ motor, which cost about $5,000.

The construction firm filed a cross-claim against the Boston Sewer and Water Commission, which contracted with the company for a job that involved repairing and replacing water lines along parts of Adams Street.

The firm alleged that the commission should have preserved the pipe that burst. “Without the failed section of pipe, it is impossible to conclusively determine the cause of the break,” the firm’s attorneys wrote in court documents.

MacNutt said sole responsibility for preserving the pipe lay with the firm.

Sgambellone said the company was not allowed to argue in court that it did not work on the Elmer Road pipe that burst, and was working on the pipe on Adams Street instead.

“If we have any ground to appeal, we likely will,” he said.