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October 11, 2012

Hamilton County being sued for negligence and breach of contract

Jasper — Attorney John McCormick advised the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners at their Oct. 2 meeting that Hamilton County is being sued for over $75,000 for negligence and breach of contract by plaintiff’s Stonington Insurance Company as subrogator of Suwannee River Economic Council in connection with the Dec. 2010 fire at the old senior citizens center in Jasper.

Stonington out of Plano, Texas was the insurance company for Suwannee River Economic Council at the time of the fire. Stonington a/s/o SREC filed a complaint in the third judicial circuit court against Hamilton County who was served the papers in September.

The general allegations in the lawsuit state that Hamilton County owned the building and rented it out as commercial property to SREC. The suit further states there was a verbal lease agreement between the county and SREC that included regular inspection, maintenance and repair of the premises.

Court papers state that in November or December 2010, an agent of the county performed routine maintenance on the heating system, which was to include replacement of the filter in the heating duct. The plaintiff’s state the filter was not replaced, thereby allowing a build-up of debris to accumulate in the ducts. On or about Dec. 9, 2010 a fire occurred in the ductwork above the ceiling as a result of the ignition of debris in the ductwork, which caused damage to the building.

SREC filed a claim with Stonington, who determined it was a covered loss and paid SREC $75,332.32 for damages. Stonington then brought a cause of action for negligence against SREC, whom they stated had a duty to properly inspect, maintain and repair the premises, including replacing filters in the heating system and failing to report unsafe conditions.

Now Stonington and SREC are demanding judgment against Hamilton County for the total amount of the covered damages of $75,332.32 plus prejudgment interest for their failure to maintain the building, which constitutes a breach of contract.

After McCormick gave the commissioners copies of the complaint against the county, he stated, “I’d rather not discuss it now because it’s pending litigation.”

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