James Rada, Jr.
(6/5) The eight Thurmont families who
sued the town for sewer back-up in their homes
in years past have now announced their intent
to sue the town for $48 million because the
town said it would condemn their homes and pay
them fair-market value.
“This is extortion. This is ridiculous,”
Thurmont Commissioner Ron Terpko said during
the town meeting on May 27.
The couples suing the town are John and Kim
Lavigne, Harold and Paula Furr, Ron and Kathy
Bishop, Wayne and Tina Brown, Robert and
Deborah Massett, Randy and Holly Valentine,
Paul and Mariola Matweecha and Robert and
Rachel Patrick. Each couple is suing the town
for $1 million in compensatory damages and $5
million in punitive damages resulting from the
town’s initiation of condemnation proceedings
against the Furrs, Browns and Bishops in
December 2007. They also announced their
intention to pursue action regarding the other
homes as well.
“The threatened condemnation actions are
retaliatory and in bad faith…” the letter to
the commissioners from New Jersey attorney
Alan Albin read in part.
In May 2007, a Frederick County Circuit
Court jury awarded the Bishops, Browns, Furrs,
Lavignes, Matweechas, Patricks and Valentines
nearly $3.5 million for damages resulting from
a sewer backup occurring in their homes in
2003. The amount was reduced to $2.6 million
in September and is still in appeals.
At the end of September 2007, the Massetts,
Bishops and Furrs filed a lawsuit for $6
million against the town for sewer back-ups
that occurred in 2004. This case hasn’t been
heard in court yet.
With this latest lawsuit, the town is
facing $56.6 million in damages that would be
split among the eight families.
“In court testimony, they said their
properties are worthless,” Burns said.
The condemnation resolutions state, in
part, “…the Town of Thurmont has used due
diligence and reasonable care in maintaining
and repairing its sewer system, but despite
these efforts, cannot guarantee that future
sewage backups will not occur at the Property
and that the Town will now incur monetary
damages as a result thereof…”
Between the first two lawsuits and the
condemnations, the families stand the
possibility of receiving 2.5 times the fair
market value of their homes.
“They’re getting justly compensated and then
some,” Burns said.
However, the letter from Albin states that
the condemnation action has “rendered said
real property of claimants unmarketable and
destroyed the fair market value of said real
The families are charging the town with
slander/disparagement, fraud, negligence,
misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, inverse
condemnation, denial of due process, malicious
use of civil process and unjust enrichment.
Commissioner Glenn Muth said he was
surprised that the families who hadn’t even
had condemnation proceedings started against
them yet were announcing they were going to
“I thought we were trying to do a good
thing by helping out those we could at the
time and look where that got us,” said
Commissioner Robert Lookingbill.