Businesses plan to sue Magdalena over water woes

Posted at: 09/24/2013 10:20 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

On Tuesday, some business owners in Magdalena are preparing to sue their own village.

A few months ago the only well in town dried up.

About 1,000 residents endured the summer's hottest months with no running water and businesses had to shut their doors.

Now those businesses have a lawyer.

"It would be primarily a negligence claim for knowing the risk and not doing anything about it," said Jeremy Theoret, a lawyer who represents four Magdalena businesses planning to sue the city.

When the little village of Magdalena dried up over the summer the only drinking water came from donations of bottled water by daily truck-loads from all over the state.

Theoret tells KOB Eyewitness News 4 the drinking water crisis was only the beginning. Even as water finally trickled back through Magdalena faucets, damage to local businesses had already been done.

"Some of the businesses are only a few thousand dollars to maybe six figures for the largest loss," he said.

Theoret has started the process of filing a negligence suit against the village of Magdalena on behalf of a lodge, housing group, laundromat and a restaurant.

"Two of them have had to shut down," he said.

Theoret said the suit will seek compensation for business owners -- something he says they deserve because of a pattern. He said Magdalena served water users with just one well -- out-of-code for a village that size, according to his research.

"Actually, in 2009 they also had a situation where they had a problem with their sole well, but rather than do anything about that, they continued to rely on that one well," he said.

Typically cities and villages are  protected from lawsuits like Theoret's if an "Act of God" is to blame.

But Theoret says the water utility does not enjoy the same protection.

Because Magdalena's water utility is operated by the village of Magdalena Theoret says the immunity doesn't apply.

KOB called the city of Magdalena on Tuesday night, but it was after business hours.

We will follow up with the village to get reaction to these new developments.