More than 7 years after the fatal Kauai Dam breach, families affected by this tragedy still await closure. This past week, a court order was granted delaying the final plea in the criminal proceedings that arose out of the incident.
According to attorneys, the dam breach was the result of illegal grading around the Kauai dam that covered up the main spillway. In 2006, the Ka Loko dam in Kilauea breached violently– allowing waves as high as 40 feet to escape. The surge of water claimed the lives of seven people who lived along the Wailapa River and Kahili beach on Kauai’s north shore.
Reports indicate that the breach originated on property owned by James Pflueger and his family’s Mary Lucas Trust. Witnesses state that a “tsunami from the mountain” emerged out of the swollen 30-acre Ka Loko reservoir, collecting trees, cars and debris in its path before crashing into the homes below.
Witnesses further contend that Pflueger had knowingly covered the dam’s spillway during illegal grading to prepare it for home sites despite warnings from people who observed his actions, the state attorney general launched a criminal investigation that led to Pflueger’s indictment in November 2008.
A civil wrongful death and negligence claim was filed as the result of the breach, and a $4 million settlement was reached. If you have questions about civil actions arising from serious personal injury accidents, it is important to consult with a dedicated Hawaii wrongful death attorney right away.
Although this case represents an extreme example, it is illustrative of the duty owed by a property owner to other, also called “premises liability.” Premises liability is the legal theory that the owner of property – whether a private individual, a company or a governmental body – owes a duty to maintain it’s property in a reasonable condition. In other words, the property must be free of unreasonable dangers. Where a property owner knows or should have known of an unreasonable danger, he or she has a duty to either eliminate the danger, or provide reasonable warning. If an individual is harmed as the result of an unreasonable danger, then he or she may file a claim for negligence and recover compensation for his or her injuries. Where a death occurs, the surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim.
In instances where the property owner “recklessly” or “willfully” creates or allows a danger to continue unabated, it may be possible to recover punitive damages.
Here, where it is alleged that deliberate and illegal actions were involved, criminal proceedings may follow.
For more information, or if you have questions about premises liability or wrongful death, please contact the dedicated Hawaii wrongful death lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.