Copperhill loses sewage damage suit

Copperhill loses sewage damage suit

December 8th, 2010 by Randall Higgins in News

Staff Photo by Kelli Gauthier/Chattanooga Times Free Press Dellon Ash II, owner of Highridge Gallery in Copperhill, Tenn., points to an area of sidewalk outside his store where plumbers have dug up old terra cotta sewage pipes.

Staff Photo by Kelli Gauthier/Chattanooga Times Free Press Dellon...

Copperhill, Tenn., has been ordered to pay a local business owner $100,000 for damage from a sewage spill.

Property owner Dellon Ash operates Highridge Gallery on Ocoee Street in Copperhill. According to Ash's attorney, Gerald Tidwell, Ash complained repeatedly of sewage backups in his store that originated from blockages under the street. His store was flooded with sewage in January 2009, records show.

Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Puckett ruled in Ash's favor after a 21/2-day trial in November. In his ruling, Puckett found actual damages to be $135,981, but Tennessee law limits damages against a municipality to a maximum of $100,000.

According to testimony, sewage also flowed into storm drains and directly into the Ocoee River, bringing the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation into the case.

After Tidwell obtained an injunction against the city, Copperhill workers dug up the road and made repairs. About four months ago, the city replaced the entire sewage line and there have been no further incidents, Tidwell said.

The original clay pipes were more than 100 years old, Tidwell said.

The Copperhill City Clerk's Office on Tuesday referred questions to city attorney Dan Pilkington of the Knoxville law firm of Watson, Roach, Batson, Rowell and Lauderback. Pilkington said Tuesday he could not comment until the formal order is signed by Judge Puckett.

According to the Polk County Circuit Court clerk's office, Judge Puckett granted a judgment in favor of Ash and is expected to sign the formal order Thursday.