The city of Hugo filed a lawsuit last week alleging former drinking water contractor Severn Trent Environmental Services committed fraud, acted negligently, breached its contract, and created a public nuisance.
The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports the city is seeking more than $225,000 in actual and punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees:
The company didn’t properly maintain the water treatment plant or request money for equipment upkeep. The lawsuit also alleges the company submitted inaccurate monthly reports to the state environmental regulator.
Severn Trent Environmental Services’ actions were grossly negligent, heinous, reckless, willful and wanton, according to the petition.
The company’s actions are a public nuisance because it endangered Hugo residents’ health, safety and comfort, the petition stated.
The company’s failure damaged the city and the Hugo Municipal Authority’s reputation with its customers and with the public, according to the document.
Tulsa environmental lawyer Jason Aamodt told Terry-Cobo fraud allegations are usually difficult to prove, which means Hugo could have substantial evidence Severn Trent acted recklessly and willfully:
Aamodt said Oklahoma law considers intentional actions malicious, which allows a jury to triple punitive damages, Aamodt said. But jurors could also recommend much higher damages than three times the plaintiff’s request, he said.
“If there is malice and the underlying activity is capable of harming human health, there is no cap on damages,” Aamodt said.
Neither the UK-based company nor Hugo's attorney Stephen Jantzen commented on the allegations.
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