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Sewer issue still in court

Stephanie Long
Thurmont Dispatch

(9/6) Another trip to court for the Town of Thurmont saw a nearly $3.5-million award from a trial earlier this year reduced by more than $900,000.

The seven plaintiff couples filed a lawsuit against the town in 2004 over flooding that occurred in their homes in 2003. In May, a Frederick County Circuit Court jury award families nearly $3.5 million. However, in August’s post-trial motions, Judge Julie Stevenson Solt reduced the award due to duplication in the award and Solt’s ruling that to municipal protections under state law, there was a cap to how much a family could be awarded. All seven families saw their awards reduced in some way.

Solt capped the largest award, given to Robert and Rachel Patrick, at $500,000 to comply with a local government tort claims act, which protects towns from paying more than $500,000 per occurrence.

The town had argued that flooding should be considered as one occurrence, that only $500,000 total should be awarded, but the judge did not agree saying that each home and its flooding was a separate occurrence and therefore seven events occurred and each plaintiff was entitled up to $500,000.

The judge also denied the defendants request for a new trial, saying “the court is comfortable with its rulings.”

Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns said the town is will appeal the decision. However, the town’s appeal will have to wait for an appeal that the Patricks have made over the reduction of their $699,733 award to $500,000.

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