By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Now that their years’ long HOA legal battle has come to an end, two Pennsylvania homeowners have filed a lawsuit against their HOA and its attorneys.
Attorney Daniel D. Stofko, of Edelstien and Margolis law firm in Scranton, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Michael Glassic and his wife, Noreen Gorka. The Stillwater Lakes Civic Association and their attorneys from Young & Haros, LLC — Nicholas C. and Gregory Malaska — are accused of ‘wrongful use of civil proceedings’ under the Dragonetti Act.
The Dragonetti Act, passed in 1980, gives a former legal defendant the right to sue the Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s attorneys for pursuing frivolous litigation, with the intent to harm the defendant.
Established in 1976, Stillwater Lakes is a planned community in Coolbaugh Township, Monroe County, PA.
In the latest complaint, Attorney Stofko addresses an underlying lawsuit filed by Stillwater Lakes Civic Association. In 2008, the HOA sued Glassic and Gorka, alleging ‘trademark infringement,’ in reference to a homeowner activist website owned and published by Glassic. Glassic had registered his website as stillwaterlakes.net.
In its 2008 lawsuit, the HOA sought a court to order for Glassic to take down his website and transfer his site registration to the Association. Legal counsel for the HOA claimed that the homeowner’s activist website confused ‘consumers’ who might want to buy or rent property at Stillwater Lakes.
Ultimately, Stillwater Lakes HOA was unable to gather sufficient evidence that Glassic’s stillwaterlakes.net website confused home buyers and ‘consumers.’
The underlying lawsuit was dismissed in 2011, with prejudice.
Dragonetti Action filed
In January 2019, Glassic and Gorka filed a lawsuit against Stillwater Lakes Civic Association, Attorney Nicholas C. Haros, and his law firm, Haros & Young, LLC, and Attorney Gregory Malaska, alleging malicious prosecution.
In August, a judge gave the homeowners a deadline of October 18, 2019, to find an attorney to continue their lawsuit. Blue Ridge Cable aired a news update featuring Michael Glassic, and, shortly thereafter, Edelstein and Margolis agreed to take the case.
The homeowners’ current lawsuit alleges that the HOA and its attorneys from Young & Haros knew or should have known that their lawsuit was frivolous, and that they could not prevail on their arguments. Nevertheless, the litigation continued for several years, forcing the homeowners to pay tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to defend themselves.
Some interesting claims, according to the Dragonetti complaint:
- From January 2007 through December 2008, prior to filing their lawsuit against Glassic and Gorka, Stillwater Lakes Civic Association advertised Glassic’s website (stillwaterlakes.net) as the official site of the HOA.
- Noreen Gorka never owned or took part in the stillwaterlakes.net website. And, when Noreen Gorka served on the HOA board in 2008 and 2009, she honored her agreement to have no interaction on the site created by her husband, Michael Glassic. Therefore, the lawsuit claims that the HOA had no reason to name Gorka in their lawsuit.
- The suit also alleges that the HOA’s lawsuit was retaliatory in nature. According to the complaint, the HOA initiated its lawsuit against the homeowners in October 2008. That was shortly after Glassic filed a complaint against the HOA management company (NEPA Management) with the PA Attorney General, who investigated the matter in September 2008.
- Glassic complied with the HOA’s cease and decease order to add a prominent disclaimer on his website, noting it was not the official website of the community. In fact, Glassic complied with the HOA’s request several weeks before the HOA filed its lawsuit. But the HOA’s attorneys filed their lawsuit alleging Glassic had never complied with the HOA’s cease and desist order.
- Counts III and IV of the current complaint highlight the fact that Young & Haros attorneys accused Glassic and Gorka of ‘confusing consumers.’ However, at the same time, the HOA’s attorneys took the opposite legal stance when they testified against proposed state legislation to make the PA Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) applicable to HOAs. Specifically, when opposing House Bills 538 and 977 in 2007, the regional CAI Legislative Action Committee — of which attorney Malaska was a member — argued that HOAs do not have consumers.
- Stillwater Lakes Civic Association voluntarily dismissed their underlying complaint, with prejudice, in May 2011.
The homeowners now seek in excess of $50,000 for compensatory damages, plus punitive damages and attorney fees.
For details about the Pennsylvania Dragonetti Act, see the following article:
PHILADELPHIA DRAGONETTI ACT LAWYERS – FILING A LAWSUIT WITH NO PROBABLE CAUSE (Bochetto & Lentz, PC)
You can the full complaint, filed on behalf of Glassic and Gorka, here at this link: http://youngandharos.com/MPcomplaint.pdf
For more details on the now-ended HOAs lawsuit against Glassic and Gorka, see this previous IAC post from September. ♦