Steve Puterski

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July 12, 2012
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Partial verdict favors Fernley flood victims

A jury has partially decided the fate of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, which had been sued over a devastating 2008 flood in Fernley.

According to the court, the jury in the Third Judicial District Court in Yerington found TCID negligent in maintenance, and negligent maintenance was the cause for the breach. Another trial is scheduled for at 1 p.m. Aug. 21 in Reno to determine damages for the plaintiffs.

"The jury found TCID negligently maintained the Truckee Canal and that negligence was the proximate cause of the embankment failure," said Patrick Leverty, one of the lawyers who handled the case.

"I really can't comment on a whole great deal," said TCID Project Manager Rusty Jardine. "This is just part of a phase that hasn't completed itself."

The outcome of the August trial - for which a new jury will be seated and will hear evidence of all the issues - could hit TCID with millions of dollars in restitution to flood victims.

"Naturally, we believe by virtue of the presentation offered at trial there was a basis where the jury could rule we were not negligent," Jardine said. "That negligence was not the cause for the breach of the canal."

The jury heard arguments for two weeks and was handed the case last week. It ruled Monday.

Fernley residents filed the class-action lawsuit, alleging that TCID failed to properly monitor conditions along the Truckee Canal, according to a recent story in the Mason Valley News.

The breach in the canal flooded hundreds of homes in Fernley in January 2008. TCID said the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the canal, did not inform TCID of studies involving internal erosion.

The Mason Valley News quoted TCID attorney William Doyle as saying, "Yet it is their report (BOR) the plaintiff relies on, claiming that the failure to monitor and correct muskrat holes was the cause of this breach. The evidence will be that TCID properly, reasonably maintained this canal, and that they properly and reasonably operated it on the night of this storm, and that they were not negligent."

The victims' attorney, Robert Maddox, said the evidence will show the embankment failed due to a "combination of the rodent burrows," according to the Mason Valley News.

In addition, Maddox said TCID's failure to repair the holes, combined with the "rapid ramping of the flow of water" on Jan. 4, 2008, led to the breach.

Maddox also said TCID knew that repairs were needed after reports from the Bureau of Reclamation disclosed those facts. TCID, according to the plaintiffs, complained to the bureau about repairing the erosion, rodent holes, piping leaks and removing wooden vegetation, according to the Mason Valley News report.

Doyle, however, told the jury of a 2007 Bureau of Reclamation to TCID that said the district was doing a "good job in ... operating and maintaining the delivery system."

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jul 12, 2012 03:38AM Published Jul 12, 2012 03:36AM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.