Is Hillsborough County Putting Itself Into Legal Jeopardy for Negligence by Specifying Double Check Valves?
Legal negligence is based on:
“Knowledge, Experience, and Perception: The law takes into account a person's knowledge, experience, and perceptions in determining whether the individual has acted as a reasonable person would have acted in the same circumstances. Conduct must be judged in light of a person's actual knowledge and observations, because the reasonable person always takes this into account.”
As previously noted on the "Statements of Government Official..." webpage, a number of officials at the local, state and federal levels have already indicated that they have the Knowledge, Experience and Perception that backflow valves with Test Ports, such as the Double Check, are dangerous.
Rather than my stumbling through the various aspects of what is negligence, here is an extended quote from an article that was co-authored by Tim De Young and Adam Gravley, partners in the Seattle office of Preston Gates and Ellis, LLP. Their article was published in the American Bar Association’s “Natural Resources and Environment Journal”, Volume 16, Number 3, Winter 2002.
Based on the expert opinions of these two lawyers and because Hillsborough County officials have acknowledged the dangers of Double Check valves, it is apparent that the County cannot slough off its responsibility for water quality and system security when it forces residential Double Checks to be installed.
In Florida, water utilities are mandated to be responsible for what enters its distribution system for delivery to their customers as a safe product! If a public drinking water supply were ever disabled (contaminated) by Double Checks, would the County, having mandated them, be guilty of intentional misconduct and gross negligence (Florida Statute 768.72(2))? Very likely…
Sovereign immunity caps are not absolute. In Florida, the Legislative Claims process allows a citizen to bring a negligence lawsuit against an agency and then take the court’s decision to the Legislature for approval. For example, in 1996, a Miami resident was struck by a City of Miami police car and received a $5,000,000 settlement.
The Twin Towers in New York that were destroyed on 9-11 were owned by the Port Authority. Part of the liability claim by the families of those who died was that after the first airplane hit, a Port Authority guard got on the two buildings' public address system and told the office workers to remain in their offices. Doing so caused many of them to die when the buildings collapsed. As a result, civilians killed or seriously injured received a total of $8.7 billion, averaging about $3.1 million per recipient.
Hillsborough County should be very concerned about their liability if there are any residential Double Check valves connected to their distribution system. A number of utility and government officials have acknowledged that utilities are responsible for assuring a safe drinking water supply. And they have acknowledged that valves like the Double Check with its Test Ports provide direct access to a utility’s distribution system and can disable a public water supply. A number of state and federal laws seek to proactively secure and protect the public drinking water infrastructure from contamination. It is negligent for Hillsborough County to allow residential Double Checks into the proposed Ordinance 03-6 because the valves are an open invitation and the means for terrorists, disgruntled people and pranksters to backflow deadly chemicals and bio-toxins directly into the public drinking water supply.
By the way, if any Hillsbourgh County officials should ever tell you that there is no danger associated with residential Double Check valves, ask them if they would be willing to put in writing that Hillsborough County will totally renounce all sovereign immunity and will assume total responsibility for all damages related to Double Check valves. What do you think their response would be? My humble guess is that they will say “Go to hell!”, because they know just how dangerous residential Double Checks are to the public's drinking water supply!
Thank you for your interest.
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