The state Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit Friday against the owners of the old St. Joseph Riverside Hospital because the vacant building is a dangerous health nuisance.
The attorney general’s office, along with the Warren Health Department, filed the suit against Leesburg, Fla. company Euro-American Finance Network, Inc. and it’s owners, Ljubica and Slavoljub Stefanovic, who are wife and husband.
The complaint filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court asks for a judge to allow the city to demolish the building and to recoup $5,500 and interest for demolishing a home next to the old St. Joe’s building on North Tod Avenue last year that the Stefanovic’s owned.
“The property located at 1307 North Tod Ave. … is a serious safety hazard and a public nuisance,” the complaint says. “Serious injury and even death may occur to persons who would enter the premises, including, but not limited to, safety service personnel.”
The company, according to its website, says it’s a holding company operating in investment management and real estate rental and leasing.
Slavoljub Stefanovic, reached at his office shortly after the lawsuit was filed on Friday, said he blames Warren officials for failing to protect his building. He said vandals caused at least $400,000 damage by breaking into the building and stealing copper pipes.
Stefanovic said his company bought the 255,000 square-foot building in 2010 for about $2 million. He said he planned make $10 million in renovations to turn the hospital into an assisted living facility.
Stefanovic said he was unaware the lawsuit was filed until contacted by WKBN.COM. He said the building was locked, but vandals ruined the building, turning it into a hazard. He said he was upset police told him they’ve caught vandals in the building before but never pressed charges.
“It’s simply negligence from the city and county there,” Stefanovic said. “They are responsible for those things.”
Stefanovic said he would not dispute he owes the city the $5,500 for razing of a 2,000-squre foot home next to the building. He said he has already agreed to pay the city for that demolition.
The complaint says the state can demolish buildings if it takes the proper steps and the owner fails to cooperate, including declaring the building dangerous for public health and safety.
The lawsuit says health inspectors determined the building vacant and cited the Stefanovic’s for several health violations in November. The city condemned the building Nov. 16. The complaint claims the Stefanovic’s never responded to the notices and never remedied the violations.
The city ordered the building demolished on Jan. 30.
“The refusal of the owners of the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital to maintain their property and demolish it after it had been condemned exhibits egregious neglect which must be addressed,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement. “The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has assisted cities in collecting the costs of demolition from grossly negligent property owners, and I am pleased to partner with the City of Warren to help combat blight and make this neighborhood safer for Warren families.”
The complaint also says Stefanovic consented to the city razing the home next door on Feb. 2, 2012. Three months later the city ordered an emergency demolition, which was later carried out. The complaint says Stefanovic refused to pay the $5,500 for the demolition.
Stefanovic said he still hopes to renovate the building if the economy recovers.
“To me anyone can sue anyone,” Stefanovic said. “If they sue me, I’ll sue them for $25 million in damages for what those vandals did to the building.”