Salmonella lawsuit still possible
Thursday, May 21st, 2009
Claimants have two years to file
By RUTH HEIDE
ALAMOSA — Legal actions resulting from salmonella illnesses, death and
business losses last year still threaten the City of Alamosa whose water
system was linked to the 2008 outbreak.
Contaminants in the water supply led to more than 400 reported salmonella
cases, about two dozen hospitalizations and one death, Romeo resident Larry
Lee Velasquez, Sr., 55.
City Attorney Erich Schwiesow told the Alamosa City Council during its
meeting on Wednesday that he received communication recently from the law
firm representing most of the people who indicated last year they might take
legal action against the city.
The Marler Clark law firm out of Seattle, Wash., is handling most of the
40-plus claims for damages ranging from $100 to $1 million that the city
received last year. None of the claims have yet turned into a lawsuit but
claimants have up to two years from the March 2008 incident to file a
The claims being handled by Marler Clark, in addition to a $1 million claim
from Velasquez’s widow, involve claims for 14 minor children and seek upwards
of $50,000 in damages per claimant.
Five other claims were submitted from folks not represented by Marler Clark -
two family claims and three business losses attributed to the water crisis.
Schwiesow said in talking with the lead attorney on the phone recently, the
attorney told Schwiesow he hoped the city would look at the information the
firm had sent the city and think about paying off some of these people.
“I told him I did not believe there’s negligence on the part of the city,”
Schwiesow said. He said the attorney suggested otherwise.
City Manager Nathan Cherpeski told the city council that the city’s insurance
carrier Travelers Insurance would have to agree to any settlement the council
Schwiesow said procedurally, “The ball is in the claimants’ court to get
something rolling. There’s been no lawsuit filed, and Travelers would need to
be consulted on anything.”
Cherpeski said Travelers could choose to settle without the city’s permission
but “we can’t settle without theirs.”
In a drinking water report from the City of Alamosa this week the city told
citizens that the new water treatment plant put into service last year to
meet new arsenic standards and an ongoing enhanced testing program of
Alamosa’s municipal supply would ensure that an outbreak like salmonella will
not occur again.
“The source of the contamination has not been determined and the
investigation continues [to] identify possible ways in which it could have
occurred,” the city report stated.