City considers salmonella claims
Posted: Wednesday, Nov 19th, 2008

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No lawsuits filed yet


ALAMOSA— With more than 40 claims for damages ranging from $100 to $1 million, the City of Alamosa is still grappling with this spring’s salmonella outbreak linked to the city’s water supply.

Alamosa City Attorney Erich Schwiesow last night told the city council that none of the claims has yet turned into a lawsuit but claimants have up to two years after the incident to file a lawsuit, or about two years from March of 2008. The time frame for claims is 180 days, he said.

“The filing of a claim does not necessarily mean the filing of a lawsuit,” Schwiesow told the council Wednesday night. “No one has sued the city.”

He said all of the claims have been forwarded to the city’s insurer who is aware of the claims but has not yet made any determination on them.

Schwiesow said the initial conclusion with regard to these claims is they would be eligible to be covered under the insurance policy. “This is just an update to let you know where we sit,” he said.

Schwiesow added that no action was required of the city at this point. In fact, he advised the city council not to do anything without having the insurance company sign off on it.

“The decision about what to do with them is not one that the city makes itself,” Schwiesow added. “That would be made in conjunction with the insurance company.”

Councilor April Gonzales asked if the insurance company was willing to pay anything on these claims.

“They are not willing to pay out anything as far as I know,” Schwiesow said.

City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said the city’s insurance company is sitting tight at this point in relationship to paying any of the claims.

Schwiesow said the city’s coverage is $150,000 per claimant up to $600,000 cumulative for the incident.

Schwiesow said the city council can tell the insurance company that the city is not interested in settling any of the claims and let the insurance company go from there, or the insurance company can tell the city it is willing to settle some of the claims. That is how the negotiating would occur, he said.

He added that if the city council wanted to talk more in depth about strategy, he would suggest an executive session. The council did not pursue an executive session on the matter on Wednesday, but Mayor Farris Bervig said that would probably be necessary at some future time.

Schwiesow said the majority of the claims are being handled by the Marler Clark firm out of Seattle, Wash., first on the scene with the initial claim of $150,000 from Jordan Cook on April 2.

The first salmonella case was reported around March 12, and by May 1 more than 400 cases had been reported, more than 100 of those confirmed through cultures. About two dozen people were hospitalized.

The single death attributed to the outbreak occurred on April 15 when Romeo resident Larry Lee Velasquez, Sr., 55, died at St. Mary Corwin in Pueblo.

The claims handled by the Marler Clark firm include a $1 million claim from Isabel Velasquez individually and as surviving spouse and personal representative of Larry Velasquez. Velasquez’s claim and that of more than three dozen other residents, was filed on August 16.

Schwiesow said that five other claims were submitted apart from Marler Clark. Those include the smallest claim for $100 from Linda Relyea and Chris Medina, filed June 10; a claim specifically for $6,817.47 from the Corey and Natalie DeAngelis family filed on August 8; a $2,300 claim from Curl Up & Dye (Linda Sanchez) filed on July 8; an unknown claim from Sonic Drive In filed on June 2; and a $10,387 claim from Pizza Hut filed on Oct. 15.

The claims being handled by Marler Clark, in addition to the initial Cook claim and the $1 million Isabel Velasquez claim, involve claims for 14 minor children and seek upwards of $50,000 in damages per claimant.

Aside from the minors listed, claims filed under the Marler Clark firm on August 16 include: $50,000 for Luis Amaya; $50,000 for Frank Calhoun; $100,000 for Pamela Calhoun; $50,000 for Gregory Allen Collins; $75,000 for Davina Dodds; $50,000 for Dora Ellis; $75,000 for Nathan Andrew Gallegos; $75,000 for Blas Luz Huerta; $150,000 for Calvin B. Jones; $50,000 for Louise Malouff; $50,000 for Philip J. Malouff; $50,000 for Timothy P. Malouff; $50,000 for Christy Medina; $125,000 for Ralph Raymond Petty; $75,000 for Marissa Roldan; $75,000 for Darace J. Smith; $75,000 for Levi Karl Torres; $75,000 for Christina K. Valdez; $50,000 for Larry Velasquez, Jr.; $50,000 for Anna Velasquez; $50,000 for Medward Romero; $75,000 for Vanessa Villalva; and $50,000 for Cassandra Wobith.

The total claims handled by the Marler Clark firm total $3.825 million.


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