Top state court bars LI communities' suit against sewer contractors

ALBANY -- New York's top court shot down a bid Tuesday by several Long Island municipalities to sue sewer contractors for tens of millions of dollars, claiming they performed faulty work in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Town of Oyster Bay, the Village of Lindenhurst and the Village of Babylon had claimed that faulty excavation and backfilling of the sewer lines caused the ground to settle, damaging roads, sidewalks, curbs and nearby water lines. But the state Court of Appeals, upholding a midlevel court decision, said the communities waited too long to file suit against the contractors.

"Plaintiffs claims, which were interposed more than three years after defendants substantially completed the construction work, are time-barred," Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote for the court.

The decision covered 10 lawsuits filed by the municipalities against five contractors that were hired by Nassau and Suffolk counties to perform the sewer work. The projects were completed between 1973 and 1987, according to Court of Appeals documents.

Though the high court tossed the claims against the contractors, the municipalities are still pursuing separate but similar claims against Nassau and Suffolk counties for what they consider faulty work, said attorney Michael Ingham, who represented the local governments. Those lawsuits are currently in state Supreme Court in Nassau and Suffolk.

"We will pursue our cause of action" there, Ingham said.

John Denby, lawyer for Lizza Industries, one of the contractors, said the businesses were "very pleased" with the outcome.

"We think it's the correct application" of the law, Denby said.

Denby said the issue has been going on for so long that most of the contractors are no longer in business. At stake Tuesday, he said, was whether the contractors' insurance plans would have had to pay claims.

"At this point, this all pertains to insurance coverage," Denby said.

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