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Outbreak News

Salmonella suit settled

by Julia Wilson, Valley Courier

September 17, 2010

The City of Alamosa, through its insurance carrier, Travelers, will pay $360,000 to 29 Alamosa residents who became ill because of the salmonella outbreak in 2008.

R. Drew Falkenstein of the Seattle law firm of Marler Clark said all the cases have been resolved.

“The settlement was approved by a local judge (District Judge Martin Gonzales) and while I can’t discuss the amount of the settlement I can say it was within the Colorado statutory limit on damages,” Falkenstein said. “We represented 16 children who became ill during the outbreak, and all cases have been resolved.”

The lawsuit claimed the city was negligent in maintaining its water facilities, the source of the salmonella, and as the municipal water provider sold tainted water to its customers.

The law firm of Marler Clark has waived all fees and costs incurred in the case.

“It was a good way to help a community that’s been through some rough economic time in recent years,” Falkenstein said in a press release. “I was pleased to have been able to work on behalf of the Alamosa citizens affected by this outbreak.”

More than 400 cases of illness were reported, typically involving vomiting and diarrhea. There was one death associated with the outbreak. Overall, state health experts estimated up to 1,300 people may have been ill.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s final report regarding the salmonella outbreak stated that animal waste most likely contaminated a concrete in-ground water storage tank. The tank was found to have several holes and cracks.

“We believe the people in Alamosa deserve to know what happened, what was done about it and why it happened,” said Ron Falco, Safe Drinking Water program manager in the Water Quality Control Division when the report was released.

The city had commissioned an inspection by a professional tank inspection company of the in-ground storage tank in July 1997. That inspection report noted cracking and problems with the corners of the tank, and recommended routine inspections for the future.

Lawyers from Marler Clark worked with attorney John Riley of the Greenwood Village, Colorado firm of Montgomery, Little and Soran, P.C., seeking unspecified damages for medical care and associated costs such as travel, lost wages and emotional distress resulting from the water-derived salmonella.

Included in the civil suit was the widow of Romeo resident Larry Velasquez, Sr.; Luis Amaya of Alamosa; Kendra and Alifonso Boraz of La Jara (on behalf of their child Isaiah); Frank and Pamela Calhoun of Colorado Springs; Gregory Allen Collins of Fountain; Jennifer and Raymond Cool of Holland (on behalf of their child Jordan); Theresa and Gilbert Covarrubias of Alamosa (on behalf of their children Kirsten and Madison); Elizabeth and David Dodds of Grand Junction (on behalf of their child Davina); Dora Ellis of Alamosa; Nathan Andrew Gallegos of Alamosa; Barbara M. Gonzales of Monte Vista (on behalf of child Camela); Blas Luz Huerta of Romeo; Calvin B. Jones, Jr. of Fountain; Eli Wilbert Lucero of Sanford (on behalf of child Sophia); Louise Helen Malouff (on behalf of children Abel and Jordan); Philip Malouff of Alamosa; Timothy Malouff of Alamosa; Crystal and Matthew Martinez (on behalf of their child Alicia); Christy J. Medina of Alamosa; Kristy and Daniel Miller of Monte Vista (on behalf of their child Madison); Meagan Marie Van Matre and Chad Moriston of Dakota City, Neb. (on behalf of their child Kaden); Ralph Raymond Petty of Alamosa; Meaghan Maynes of Alamosa (on behalf of child Marissa); Shannon Lisa Apodaca of Alamosa (on behalf of child Darren); Darace J. Smith of Pueblo; Levi K. Torres of Antonito; Christina K. Valdez of Monte Vista; Isabel Velasquez of Romeo (widow of Larry Velasquez, Sr.); Luz Elena and Martin Villalva of Alamosa (on behalf of child Vanessa); and Cassandra Wobith of Alamosa (on behalf of children Keith and Lindsey.)

Since the outbreak there have been significant changes to the City of Alamosa water system.

According to the press release, the City of Alamosa continues to “dispute that there was any negligence on the part of the City for the outbreak but believes that the settlement process was fair and equitable and is pleased that this matter was resolved in a way to further the best interests of all the citizens of Alamosa.”

More on this outbreak: Alamosa, Colorado Municipal Water System Salmonella Outbreak

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