Altamont defends against $1M suit

ALTAMONT – The village board spoke out Tuesday about the lawsuit in which the village and the Altamont Fire Department are co-defendants.

Last year, local residents Adam and Josephine Reinemann, of Prospect Terrace, sued the Altamont Fire Department and the village for $1 million in damages, when a 200-gallon oil spill occurred in the basement of their home, following a fire department volunteer’s investigation and manipulation of an oil valve on the home’s furnace.

“Are we covered by a lawsuit?” asked Trustee William Aylward this week, referring to the village’s reinstatement of its insurance carrier, Marshall and Sterling.

Village Attorney Michael Moore, of Young, Sommer, LLC, said the insurance would not cover that type of suit, because most insurance policies have “pollution exclusion” clauses. Any claims of pollution damage are not eligible for coverage, Moore said.

Moore said last year that the Reinemanns’ claim was filed too late for the village to investigate the matter for itself.

According to the notice of claim, the $1 million total covered past, present, and future medical bills; property damage; loss of future earning capacity; pain and suffering; and loss of enjoyment or quality of life.

“We are successfully defending this suit,” said Mayor James Gaughan Tuesday.

Moore told The Enterprise via e-mail this week that Albany County Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Terisi denied the Reinemanns’ request last year to file a late Notice of Claim against the village for the oil spill in the Reinemann home.

“Young/Sommer, on behalf of the Village, successfully opposed the motion,” Moore said. “Judge Teresi agreed with our argument and denied the Reinemanns’ motion, finding that they had not met the grounds established in the law for filing a late Notice of Claim.”

Moore said that the Reinemanns are seeking to have the Appellate Division, the middle level in New York’s three-tiered court system, reverse Judge Teresi’s decision and allow them to file a late Notice of Claim. 

The appeal is scheduled to be argued in the fall, Moore said.

The Reinemanns recently testified in a trial in which contractor Jacob Peru, who worked on their basement clean-up after the oil spill, was charged with violating New York State Department of Environmental Conservation laws for illegally transporting contaminated waste. Altamont Village Justice Rebecca Hout found Peru not guilty.

Other business

In other business, the village board:

— Approved a 10-percent increase in costs for insurance carrier Marshall and Sterling, allowing rates up to $37,450.

“We had budgeted for this potential increase,” Gaughan said;

— Agreed to file a certificate designating the Secretary of State as an agent for service of a notice of claim. If the village is served in a lawsuit, Moore said, the serving is done through the Secretary of State, rather than directly through the village, according to New York State law, he said, and a letter dated July 8 from the State office.

The new designation carries with it a $250 fee.

“It’s fund-raising for the state of New York,” Moore said; and

— Approved four change orders for the wastewater treatment plant improvements that are nearing completion this month.

“Based on the meeting we held,” Aylward said, “…we have contingent balances. How are they used if they remain unused?”

Village engineer Richard Straut, of Barton & Loguidice, said, “The terms of your borrowing have been set.” Before the project is completed, he said, another portion of the contingency may be used, but some will be left.

“You give it back and pay down principal,” Straut said.

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