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Blagg Road case goes to mediation next month

Parties in the Nye County suit over Blagg Road along with a companion case in Clark County filed by Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada are scheduled to begin mediation talks Oct. 24-25, with an additional conference scheduled Dec. 2-13, according to documents on file in Fifth Judicial District Court.

Last December, Nye County sued Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada, Corrections Corporation of America, Spirit Underground LLC, Nigro Construction Inc., The WLB Group, Ninyo and Moore Geotechnical Consultants, Viking Construction Services Inc. and Atkins North America Inc. over the faulty construction of a sewer line. Parts of Blagg Road, under which the new sewer line was laid to the new CCA Nevada Southern Detention Center on East Mesquite Avenue, were closed after a heavy rain in December 2010 and weren’t reopened until April 2012.

After a meeting before a judge March 15 in which they were unable to reach a resolution, the parties to the lawsuit agreed to enter into and engage in good faith, private mediation, with attorney David Lee, the mediator. A special master was appointed back in May for the county’s case as well as two companion Clark County cases in which Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada sued Spirit Construction and Ninyo and Moore.

Nye County reiterated they were not a party to the Clark County lawsuit, just the joint track of discovery, a legal term that refers to the scheduled producing of documents for a trial by both sides. In June, Nye County filed a limited objection to the special master’s recommendations in the Clark County case over the arrangements for joint discovery in both cases.

“If the parties are successful in reaching a resolution both this and the Clark County case will presumably be dismissed. If no resolution is reached at the mediation, both this and the Clark County case will proceed on their own accord,” the county states.

The parties were originally scheduled to meet with the mediator in August, a date which was pushed back to October as there was insufficient time to prepare. A new trial date was set sometime after May 1, 2014.

Charges of fraud, fraudulent concealment and gross negligence filed by Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada against The WLB Group and Ninyo and Moore, were dismissed without prejudice; UICN is expected to file an amended complaint against those defendants in Clark County. The WLB Group was retained by UICN and CCA to work on the construction project, Ninyo and Moore were geo-technical consultants.

A notice of intent to seek a default judgment was filed against Viking Construction, a company hired by Nye County to do quality assurance inspections of the Blagg Road project, for failing to answer court documents.

Nye County claims $4 million in damages. Utilities Inc. claims $400,000 in damages in its suit.

In February, Fifth District Judge Kimberly Wanker denied a request for a change of venue by UICN to move the case to Clark County. UICN officials said it would be easier on attorneys because there was a similar case in Clark County and because of pretrial publicity in the Pahrump Valley Times. Wanker said it was premature to ask for a change of venue at that time, but the question of bias could be brought up again while questioning jurors. She also noted there were other venues in the fifth district before moving it to Clark County, hinting the trial could be moved to Tonopah.

Tom Beko, an attorney for the state insurance pool representing Nye County, argued a change of venue wasn’t granted for high profile cases like the trial of Enron Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling in Houston and the hepatitis case in Las Vegas where 60,000 patients had received letters from the Southern Nevada Health District warning about possible exposure to hepatitis B, C or HIV.

Last February, Wanker said with her busy court calendar of criminal cases it could be mid-2014 or even 2015 before the Blagg Road case could go to trial.

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