WAPAKONETA — According to a contractor who is a co-defendent in a lawsuit against the village of Minster, the contractor was only following orders and so was not liable for damages to eight neighboring homes during a May 17 2019 flood.
The original lawsuit, which was filed April 15, charges the village and contractor Helms and Sons Construction and Excavating, is asking for compensation for damages to the homes during the flooding. Both the Village and the contractor have denied responsibility.
In the contractor’s answer, which was filed in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court last week, the contractor maintains the village made the decision to remove an abandoned sewer line which did not appear in the original project plans to install new sewer lines. That removal is cited in the original lawsuit as one of the elements that caused the flooding event.
James D. Utrecht, attorney for Helms and Sons, said that one aspect of the lawsuit will be determining who is responsible for the decision to remove the old sewer line. “The Village claims that we (Helms) made the decision to remove the old sewer line,” he said. “But we did what the Village wanted us (Helms) to do.” The old sewer line was not on the plans for project.
The sewer removal may have made the village liable. Attorney Sean Alto of Cooper Elliott in Columbus (https://www.cooperelliott.com/ ), who represents the eight households suing for damages, said that Ohio Revised Code section 2744.01 prohibits the destruction of a sewer system.
In regard to another aspect of the lawsuit, the Helms answer also flatly denies without additional comment the accusation that the trench box they built to hold back flood waters from a nearby canal were inadequate.
The original suit said that the rising water and sediment in the canal entered the pipe blocked by the trench box and that the since the trench box was negligently constructed, caused water to flood the trench box and lift station which caused the lift station to fail and allow sewage to back up into neighboring homes that pushed several inches to two feet of sewage and stormwater into their homes.
Once answers are filed by both defendants, the Common Pleas Court may proceed to seeking depositions from related parties. A jury trial was requested by the litigant in the original filing.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.