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Bank is sued over asbestos

A St. Petersburg company that purchased a downtown building from Sun Bank of Tampa Bay says the bank did not disclose that the building contained asbestos. Now the company is suing Sun Bank of Tampa Bay and the real estate company that handled the sale. Azeele Investment Group/St. Petersburg purchased the former Sun Bank Building, 301 Fourth St. N., for $3.2-million on Dec. 31, 1986. Azeele discovered in April that both the original two stories of the building and a three-story addition contain asbestos.

The lawsuit says that Sun Bank continued to occupy the building until June 1990. Azeele maintains that it could not discover the problem sooner because Sun Bank was handling the maintenance of the building.

As owner of the building, Azeele is required under federal law to remove the asbestos, which "would be time-consuming and extremely costly," according to the lawsuit that was filed in Pinellas County civil court.

Also named as defendants are the Justice Corp., the real estate company that handled the purchase, and Burke Raughley, its agent.

Azeele is suing Sun Bank, Justice Corp. and Raughley for fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation. Sun Bank also is being sued for breach of contract. In its capacity as lender, the bank also is being sued for negligence for failing to obtain building inspections before the sale.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $10,000 as well as recision of the building.