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Ruling allows Hawaii dam break lawsuits to advance

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COMAttorney David Minkin and William McCorriston watched as Pflueger signed the agreement.
    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Attorney David Minkin and William McCorriston watched as Pflueger signed the agreement.

LIHUE >> A state appeals court ruling has cleared the way for stalled lawsuits involving a deadly 2006 Kauai dam breach to move forward.

The state Intermediate Court of Appeals on Wednesday sent the case back to circuit court, vacating the lower court’s ruling letting 17 insurance companies out of a Ka Loko dam suit, the Garden Island reported.

The 5th Circuit was wrong to rule that insurers had no duty to defend against “continuous, incremental and indivisible” property damage, the ruling states.

Lawsuits were filed after the dam break killed seven people.

The appellate ruling involves three lawsuits and 17 insurers, said Tom Grande, an attorney for the victims.

“We are taking a careful look at the decision to determine what is the next appropriate step,” he said.

Retired car dealer and landowner James Pflueger pleaded no contest last month in the criminal case. He accepted a deal to plead no contest to reckless endangering in exchange for dropping seven manslaughter counts. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 23.

His company, Pacific 808 Properties LLC, pleaded no contest to seven manslaughter charges.

The victims were killed after the century-old Ka Loko dam broke on Pflueger’s property, sending hundreds of millions of gallons of water downstream.

Pflueger’s plea agreement calls for five years’ probation. At the sentencing, prosecutors can argue for additional conditions such as community service, a fine, and up to a year imprisonment.

His company will pay a $350,000 fine that will go toward a dam inspection and safety program.

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