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Thurmont sewer plaintiffs
 win millions from town

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(5/24) A Frederick County jury awarded $3.4 million to seven families suing the Town of Thurmont after the families’ basements flooded with water and sewage in 2003.

‘‘I’m ecstatic for the clients," said Loyd Hopkins, an attorney representing the Browns, Bishops, Lavignes and Patricks of Ironmaster Court, a cul-de-sac on the southern edge of Thurmont, and the Matweechas of Woodland Avenue, the Valentines of Sunset Lane and the Furrs of Westview Drive.

A six-member jury delivered the verdict on May 17, after deliberating since the previous day. The nine-day civil jury trial started on May 7.

An eighth family suing the town, the Linkers of Ironmaster Court, was not awarded damages last week.

‘‘There was a question about jurisdiction," said John E. Coppock Jr., an attorney for the plaintiffs, on Monday. ‘‘Their claim is alive and well."

Coppock said that the Linkers are going to file a motion for summary judgement after being left out of the original suit at the last minute.

‘‘It was a little bit of a speed bump for them," he said.

Thurmont commissioners discussed the possibility of an appeal during a closed executive session before Tuesday’s regular town meeting.

‘‘Options are being weighed," said Mayor Martin A. Burns on Monday.

‘‘We do not know where the money’s going to come from," he said, calling the verdict a ‘‘sad day for the residents of Thurmont."

Neither Burns now Rick May, the town’s chief financial officer, could not say how much of the $3.4 million the town would pay from its funds.

‘‘Nothing’s been resolved yet," May said Monday.

During closing arguments, Ralph L. Arnsdorf, an attorney representing the town, told the jury that the town has spent ‘‘millions" on its sewer system since the 1970s, and that the floods were cause by a combination of heavy rain and saturated ground.

‘‘Why didn’t all heck break loose before 2003?" Arnsdorf said. ‘‘The first time the town had ever had a flood of that magnitude" was on May 16, 2003, when nearly 6 inches of rain fell at once, he argued.

In his rebuttal, Loyd Hopkins, attorney for the plaintiffs, said a 1974 report by the Town of Thurmont said that the sewer system was vulnerable to floods.

‘‘They sat on the problem," Hopkins told the jury. ‘‘They did not allocate the resources."

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