More litigation pending in Barngrover case

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 6, 2013 

The attorney for Dr. Kenneth Barngrover, whose 20-year legal battle with the city appeared to be wrapped up early this week, said he has further litigation pending against the city and plans to move forward with at least one pending suit soon.

City Attorney Clifton Fay is responding with a letter warning attorney James Patrick and Barngrover that the city will file suit seeking damages and legal fees under “abusive litigation” statutes if all existing suits in this matter are not withdrawn.

Patrick said the pending lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation for Barngrover “being evicted from the house from 1999 up to the present time.”

“We plan to go to trial on that case,” Patrick said. “The city of Columbus forced him and his family out of their home.”

Responding to Monday’s Georgia Supreme Court ruling against his client, Patrick said the ruling did not mention a 1999 Superior Court ruling that orders the city to allowing sewage to flow out of ruptured pipes onto Barngrover’s 3301 Cathryn Drive property.

Because that aspect was not mentioned, it is still in effect and the city is still in violation of the order, Patrick said.

“The court did not address the continuation of the raw sewage flooding of my client’s property,” Patrick said. “That is the reason the three houses are uninhabitable, because they are collapsing into the underground broken sanitary sewer lines.”

“He is mistaken,” Fay said when asked if sewage is still flowing onto the property. “Absolutely not. That was fixed years ago.”

Patrick also accused the law firm of Page, Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker and Ford of “making sure the city doesn’t comply because they continue to be paid by the city not complying and my client having to take the matter repeatedly to court.”

“We would respectfully disagree,” Fay said.

Jim Clark and Thomas Gristina, the Page, Scrantom attorneys who handle the Barngrover case, issued the following response to Patrick’s allegation:

“As the unanimous opinion of the Georgia Supreme Court makes abundantly clear, the city’s desire in this matter is, and has always been, to equitably implement the jury verdict, and the city remains focused on doing this and bringing the matter to a close.”

Barngrover bought the house in 1991 and made some improvements. He soon discovered that a sewer pipe and rain drain were running under his house, causing toxic leaks and sinkholes. He demanded that the city remedy the situation, but was refused.

In Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston’s court, Barngrover successfully sued the city, which unsuccessfully appealed, in a process that dragged out until 2001. The city was ordered to pay $237,000 in damages and to restore the property to its 1991 condition.

An odyssey of hearings, findings and appeals ensued, culminating in a hearing before the state Supreme Court last year. Monday’s unanimous ruling by the court sets the stage for the city to begin razing the structures, removing any contaminated soil and building a new house.

Fay said the city is ready to begin that work and said any pending litigation should not have any effect on that process.

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