QUEENSBURY -- A state Supreme Court jury found Thursday that Kubricky Construction Co. was 45 percent liable for the 2005 Hadlock Pond dam collapse, with the jury also spreading out responsibility among three other defendants to cap a seven-week trial.
After two days of deliberations, the panel found that Glens Falls-based Kubricky, which built the dam, was most responsible for the collapse that caused millions of dollars in property damage when the dam gave way in July 2005, months after it was completed.
The three-man, three-woman panel also determined that HTE Northeast Engineering, the company that designed the dam, bore 27 percent of the responsibility, the town of Fort Ann 23 percent and Atlantic Testing Laboratories Ltd. -- which tested the construction materials -- 5 percent.
The jury also ruled that the town of Fort Ann breached its dam construction contract with Kubricky when it did not pay, a verdict that Fort Ann town attorney John Aspland said was "inconsistent" since Kubricky was found to be most responsible for the dam's collapse.
The jury did not determine the amount of damage to which the 110 or so plaintiffs are entitled. That process will begin in the coming weeks when the plaintiffs will have to begin proving their monetary losses.
Several of the plaintiffs sat through much of the trial. One of them, George Tuttle, said afterward that he believed the allocation of blame was "pretty fair."
"My only problem is it took five years to get to it," he said.
He had a bridge to his home was washed out by the water from the 220-acre lake, and he lost about an acre of land. He said his loss was estimated at about $350,000 a few years ago, and it is likely higher now.
The jury's foreman, Bud Brock of Easton, said he did not agree with the panel's decision to blame the town for 23 percent of the failure, and he felt that 10 percent was more appropriate. He said one male juror was dead-set on the town receiving a higher percentage of fault.
"I said, ‘They (the town) had nothing to do with building the dam," Brock said. "We tried to be as fair as we could. We talked about it a lot and we compromised."
Brock said there was "too much (of the dam) gone" to know what really happened.
He said he believed the town breached its contract with Kubricky and should have paid for the dam even if it wasn't built correctly, with the town then seeking its money back if it believed it should do so.
Lawyers for all but Kubricky waited around after the verdict to talk to the media and the jurors. Kubricky's counsel left court without commenting to the media, and could not be reached later Thursday for comment.
Aspland said it was unclear Thursday whether the town would appeal the verdict, but he said he believed the town was assigned too much blame.
"I thought the percentage of allocation was a little high for the town," Aspland said.
The town was sued because it gave the go-ahead to close the dam to fill the lake.
Thomas Mortati, a lawyer for HTE, said it was clear that all of the defendants "would get some degree of a black eye" during the trial, but he praised the jury for its efforts. He said it was unclear if the company would appeal.
A lawyer for Atlantic Testing would not comment on the verdict.
Daniel Stewart, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, called the verdict "very fair" and "well thought-out."
Despite the verdict, the case is far from over, Aspland said. In addition to possible appeals, the damage assessment process will be lengthy.
"I would measure it in years instead of months," Aspland said.
But Paul Wein, a lawyer for numerous plaintiffs, said it would be "insane" for the defendants to appeal and he wanted to expedite the damages process.
"We're going to push to get this to a quick end," he said.