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Spraypark lawsuit headed to trial

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Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 10:37 am

WATERLOO — Remember the Seneca Lake State Park sprayground intestinal illness case?

The class-action lawsuit over the 2005

cryptosporidium-related outbreak is heading to trial in the spring.

The non-jury trial, which is set for a May 5 start date, is scheduled for the state Court of Claims in Syracuse before Judge Nicholas Midey Jr., a Seneca Falls native. Three weeks have been blocked off the court calendar for the proceeding.

However, the case could still be settled before then. If not, Midey will first conduct a trial on the state’s liability. If he rules in favor of the plaintiffs, he will conduct a second trial on what damages will be awarded.

About 2,500 people, most of them children and those who came into contact with their fecal material, suffered a diarrheal illness in the summer of 2005. The affected families filed a class-action lawsuit against the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which operates the state park system.

All offers to settle or mediate the case in the past 81⁄2 years have failed.

Midey has denied state Attorney General’s Office motions to dismiss the lawsuit or to issue a summary judgment, as well as blocking efforts dismiss some of the expert witnesses the plaintiffs plan to call to the stand.

Law firms in Rochester, Albany and Seattle are representing the plaintiffs.

The suit claims the state was negligent in engineering and designing the spraypark and allowing it to be installed. They claim the outbreak was due to secondary exposure to a fecal matter parasite from a spraypark user.

“The parasite irritated the lining of the bowels, causing sudden, explosive diarrhea,” explained lawyer Paul Nunes of the Underberg & Kessler Law Firm of Rochester, one of the firms representing the plaintiffs. “Parents and adults were exposed by contact in cleaning up after their children. The contaminated water got into their mouths and was swallowed. Some were hospitalized. We are lucky there were no deaths.”

The spraypark was installed in 2001 and opened in 2002.

“The new spraypark now in place works fine, and that technology was available in 2001,” Nunes said. “This all could have been avoided with some good engineering work.”

Most of the plaintiffs hail from upstate New York, Nunes added.

Nunes said the state has refused to sit down and discuss a settlement of the lawsuit, denying it was responsible for the outbreak.

People can get an update on the litigation at www.sprayparkoutbreak.com. The name of the case is Timothy Springer et al. vs. the state of New York, claim No. 111361.

Nick Benson, who was recently appointed as deputy press secretary for the Rochester regional office of the state Attorney General’s Office, said he was familiarizing himself with the case and could not yet comment.

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