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South End building owner sues his insurers for not paying some of his legal bills in decade-long legal battle over neighboring condos

Arthur Leon, who has been battling construction of an 18-unit condo building on Harrison Avenue since it was first proposed in 2011, is now suing several insurance companies for not helping to pay for his legal struggles over the building, which is on land entirely surrounded by a large industrial building he owns.

Despite his efforts to block construction of the Jordan Lofts, the project opened years ago.

In his suit, Leon says the four insurance companies have abrogated their responsibilities under the policies he had purchased to help shield him from "malicious prosecution" and "vexatious litigation," in his case, the still open 2015 suit by developer John Holland and his 477 Harrison Ave, LLC against him over his repeated attempts to kill the project.

Leon, a Westwood resident, claims he and his company, JACE Boston, LLC, are on the hook for potentially millions of dollars in that lawsuit despite the fact he will be exonerated, even though he keeps losing in court.

After both sides in the building dispute charged each other with filing "strategic lawsuits against public participation," the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2019 that it was Leon - who once called 911 to complain about construction workers on the Holland project - who was trying to keep Holland from his right to petition government, in this case, for permission to create the condos and then, three years later, add three new units to the top of the building.

Despite the SJC ruling, which came in Holland's still open 2015 suit against Leon, Leon continues his fight.

Leon initially filed his suit against the insurance companies in May in Suffolk Superior Court. This week, the companies - Landmark American Insurance Co., American Safety Indemnity Co., First Mercury Insurance Co. and Navigators Specialty Insurance Co. - all based out of state, moved to have the case transferred to federal court in Boston because they are not Massachusetts companies and because Leon and JACE are seeking more than the $75,000 minimum required for a federal lawsuit.

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Comments

Legal insurance is all about helping you protect yourself from being sued.

It isn't about going on a rampage and paying you to sue others.

(I recently got some and it is pretty specific about it not covering this sort of thing)

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Voting closed 21

I'll see if I can clarify in the story: He's suing the insurers specifically over their apparent refusal to defend him court from a 2015 suit brought by Holland (the one the SJC ruled on), so, yes, he's doing just what you said. But that suit is related, obviously, to his actions before and during that period to try to block construction of the condos next door.

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Voting closed 23

Sounds like a good description of his own activities.

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Voting closed 26

I'm entirely unsure as to why these now built condos would do anything to his rundown eyesore of a garage.

Even if it weren't a rundown eyesore, one would think that he would benefit from monthly parking fees for people who live in the condos?

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Voting closed 19

I think Leon's claim was that the condo development could have a negative impact on his ability or limit his options to redevelop his property sometime in the future.

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Voting closed 14

He's raised a couple of issues over the years: One was that the common wall his building shares with the condos would be damaged by the condo work (from the filings, it looks like the wall is actually part of the condo building, but he has an easement to use them for his building). He sued as part of one of his zoning suits; the court said it wasn't a zoning issue, but a building-code issue, so it was up to ISD to ensure any work would be safe and not harm the wall.

The other was that the three units on what was then the roof would detract from his ability to make something of his building, because of noise and such. The zoning board disagreed, as did the judge in the case.

For what it's worth, one of the condo guy's legal arguments is that Leon was trying to stall him into bankruptcy so that Leon could snap up the condo building and make it part of whatever his grand scheme was. Given that the condos have been sold, it looks like this plan didn't work.

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Voting closed 13