Update: From The Denver Post (David Olinger):
Larry Velasquez had colon cancer and a weakened immune system when his body was invaded by bacteria in the city water supply. But “I think if Alamosa had taken better care of their water supply, my dad would still be here,” his daughter said.
That caused the worst waterborne- disease outbreak in the U.S. since 2004. In Alamosa, a city of 8,900, an estimated 1,300 people might have been ill, including 40 percent of its infants. State officials identified 442 cases of “probable salmonella infections” and pointed to a cracked water reservoir as a likely point of origin…
A state immunity law limits liabilities of city and state governments to $600,000 per occurrence. The lawsuit against Alamosa was filed jointly by John Riley, a Greenwood Village lawyer, and Drew Falkenstein of Marler Clark, a Seattle- based firm that specializes in bacterial contamination cases.
From the Associated Press via KRDO.com:
The lawsuit filed in Alamosa District Court Monday alleges the city failed to monitor and maintain a sanitary water system. The outbreak in March 2008 sickened as many as 1,300 people and killed one person…Alamosa’s city attorney says the city’s insurance carrier has been talking to the attorneys who filed the lawsuit for months.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner and Pablo Carlos Mora):
Twenty-nine parties filed suit Monday against the city for damages they allegedly suffered during the 2008 salmonella outbreak…
“What I’m seeking in this case is the amount of monetary compensation to put these folks back in the shape they were in before the outbreak,” said Drew Falkenstein, a Seattle-based attorney for the plaintiffs…
The outbreak resulted in 122 confirmed cases of illness and the lawsuit estimates as many as 2,000 may have gotten sick. The plaintiffs included the spouse of Larry Velasquez Sr., the lone fatality from the outbreak. The parents of 17 minors also filed suit. Children under 18 were among the hardest hit by the outbreak, accounting for 60 percent of all confirmed illnesses.
The suit claims critical points within the city’s water system were in significant disrepair at the time of the outbreak. The suit points to Weber Reservoir, a covered reservoir with cracks and holes, that the state health department said was the probable source of contamination. Two other water towers — Ross and Craft — contained sediment and the former contained animal feces, according to the lawsuit. None of the three structures had been inspected since 1997, the suit claimed.
From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):
The civil case seeks unspecified damages for medical care and associated costs such as travel, lost wages and emotional distress resulting from the water-derived salmonella event that involved hundreds of cases and one death.
The civil suit filed on Monday includes the widow of Romeo resident Larry Velasquez, Sr., whose death was related to salmonella. Several other plaintiffs are parents of children who were sick with salmonella in the spring of 2008…
The attorneys filing the suit on Monday made several points including:
• The gastrointestinal symptoms detected among area residents the second week of March 2008 were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control to be related to salmonella that was also confirmed in the city’s water supply, subsequently leading to the bottled water advisory, a state health investigation and system-wide decontamination;
• Although 122 people were lab-confirmed with salmonella, it was estimated that as many as 2,000 people became ill during the outbreak and one person, Larry Velasquez Sr., died.
• At the time of the salmonella outbreak, “critical points within the City of Alamosa’s public water facility were in significant disrepair,” including the Weber Reservoir, Ross and Craft water towers.
The lawsuit addresses the governmental immunity clause but maintains that the city is not immune from liability because it was negligent in maintaining its water facilities. “Defendant breached its duty to use reasonable care in the operation and maintenance of its public water facility …”
The attorneys added that under the Colorado Product Liability Act, the city as a “manufacturer and product seller” of water, sold salmonella-contaminated water that resulted in the plaintiffs’ illnesses. Under the Product Liability Act, the attorneys stated, the city had an obligation to sell water that was safe to use, not contaminated with salmonella, so the city was liable for the injuries and economic loss that resulted to the plaintiffs.
The attorneys are seeking a trial during which time the general and specific damages would be proven. Those damages include loss of enjoyment of life; medical and medical related expenses; travel and travel-related expenses; emotional distress; pharmaceutical expenses; and other incidental and consequential damages.