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The Battle of Commonwealth Avenue: Octopus Expert Wins

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Jerome Wodinsky, an 84-year-old who has taught at Brandeis for half a century and who is an expert on the behavior of the octopus, and wife Bernadette, 69 and an employee at the Neiman Marcus in Copley Square, have won their legal battle to retain the fourth-floor condo in Back Bay they've lived in for over 30 years. They beat would-be supermarket heirs Michael and Frances Kettenbach.

In 1996, the Kettenbachs moved into the McKim, Mead & White-designed former mansion at 303 Commonwealth Avenue and began buying up condos, until they owned every damn one, four in all, except the Wodinskys'. They wanted it, and, according to court papers and media reports, they went after it. Per Brian McGrory in today's Globe:

They made an offer to the Wodinskys that was declined. Then, a couple of years ago, some funny things started to happen. A state inspector ordered repairs on the common elevator in 2009, prompting the Kettenbachs to instead replace it, which took nearly a year. You could build half a downtown tower in the time it took a new elevator to go in. This meant that the elderly professor, who has emphysema and three stents in his legs, among other ailments, was forced to climb four flights of narrow stairs every time he left his apartment.


The Kettenbachs set their sights on improving the common spaces. When the 10-year-old roof leaked, they put on a brand new one. They installed a brand new heating system, overhauled the electrical system, and put in new skylights.

The Wodinskys didn't want any of it, of course; they couldn't afford it. But the Kettenbachs billed them for the renovations, nonetheless, and the ensuing dispute drove the quartet to court. The court sided this week with the Wodinskys. And the Kettenbachs? They're out some serious cash: "[The jurors] awarded the Wodinskys $1.85 million. The Wodinskys also get 12 percent annual interest (already $440K), plus yet-to-be-determined lawyers fees. The Kettenbachs are looking at a payout of more than $3 million, plus their own legal bills."

Still, the famously litigious duo plans to appeal. And the Wodinskys, after all that, plan to move out—they've had it up to here with the neighbors.

· A victory for reason in Wodinsky v. Kettenbach lawsuit [Globe]
· Squeezed by Back Bay Tycoon, Aging Professor May Yet Prevail [Globe]

303 commonwealth avenue, boston, ma