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Judge allows negligence suit against Hope Mills dam designer

Posted April 16, 2014

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— A judge who ruled last year that the Town of Hope Mills could not sue an engineering firm for negligence in designing the town's dam reversed his ruling Tuesday, a decision town leaders believe strengthens their case for damages.

Cabarrus Superior Court Judge Erwin Spainhour ruled in 2013 that the engineering, construction and insurance firms involved in the dam project could be sued for breach of contract but not for negligence. Spainhour’s reversal allows the town to move forward with a negligence lawsuit against MACTEC, the geotechnical engineering firm that designed the dam.

“All along we had disagreed with the judge’s ruling and because of the direction of the case is heading and because of the positions the parties were taking, we felt it was important to go after MACTEC directly because the evidence will show that there was a very significant design flaw in the way the dam failed,” said T.C. Morphis Jr., Hope Mills attorney. “Going after MACTEC directly strengthens our hand to get enough money to rebuild the dam, which has been our focus all along.”

Concrete on the Hope Mills Lake Dam failed in June 2010, 18 months after it was built to replace an earthen dam that burst during heavy rains in 2003. Emergency repairs were done immediately after the failure to stabilize the dam but no work has been done since.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in July.

Spainhour also ruled on Tuesday that the contract between Hope Mills and McKim & Creed, the engineering firm that subcontracted MACTEC, does not prevent the town from seeking full damages and that McKim & Creed can pursue a full recovery of damages from MACTEC.

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