- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s jurors issued a $185,000 judgment against the commissioners of Leonardtown on Wednesday after two days of testimony and arguments about a pair of sewage backups into a house off Point Lookout Road.
Jurors found that the town was negligent, allowed a nuisance to exist and that what occurred on Oct. 19, 2009, and Jan. 30, 2011, at the house owned by Nancy Bupp and David Deaderick, a Mechanicsville couple, amounted to an act of trespassing.
The town’s administrator said Thursday that its attorney in the case, through an insurance trust, might file post-trial motions in the matter.
Loyd Byron Hopkins, the couple’s lawyer, told the jurors during opening arguments on Monday that the case was about responsibility and the town “refusing to do what’s right,” in that it didn’t adequately fix the problems in a PVC line running from the house and connected to a cast iron main sewer line under the highway.
The two sewage backups interfered with the couple’s ability to rent out the house to tenants, Hopkins said, and the problems occurred because of “a dip” in the PVC line that had been installed in 1999, when someone else owned the house. Hopkins said the dip in the line, under the highway, impeded the gravity flow system, but that the town refused to make the necessary repairs.
“Because of costs, they don’t want to fix the problems,” Hopkins said. “They have a duty to maintain it in a proper fashion.”
Matthew Peter, the lawyer for the town, told the jurors that there are two sections to the lateral line running to the property, with two cleanout caps for access, and that there were two dips in the line — including one in a portion that was the property owners’ responsibility.
“That’s their problem. That’s their lateral line,” Peter said, adding that the backups occurred in that portion of the line, between the two cleanout caps, including at a time when the plaintiffs rented the house out to a tenant with several young children.
“The town is not shirking its responsibility,” Peter said, and the only sewage that backed up into the home, was coming from the home. “A cause of the problem is stuff that’s been inserted into the system, in the home,” he said.
The jurors ruled that the plaintiffs were not contributorily negligent in the matter.