Wise v. Otay Water District (San Diego, California)
For 15 months, Amy Wise and Angela Mason used treated sewage water as their drinking water at their candy store in Chula Vista — not by choice, but because two water lines in Otay Water District had been crossed by mistake. They sued Otay Water District, as well as the contractors and sub-contractors used to construct the water system, requesting over $1 million in damages, including harm from the illnesses caused by the treated sewage water and the subsequent emotional distress.
Procopio's Anthony Dain, representing the plaintiffs, argued that the owners of the Candy Boutique had suffered severe distress as a result of suffering from cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea multiple times over the 15 months. Further, he argued that the publicizing of the case led to the plaintiffs suffering from emotional distress as a result of the community considering them ‘contaminated.’
“For the 15 months…the plaintiffs had to be exposed to the pathogens in that water…and for the months and months and months of anger, frustration, humiliation, and mortification that they had to suffer for something that htey were not at fault for, we’re going to ask for money damages. That’s all we can do,” Dain said.
Jeffery A. Morris, representing Otay Water District, argued that the link between the illnesses and the water was questionable, though he acknowledged that the water was not intended for ingestion. “The act of microwaving would kill any bacteria [in the treated sewage water],” Morris said. “The using of soap…the act of drying their hands will kill most of the bacteria.”
Further, he noted that one of his witnesses, a doctor, “could not see any of the complaints related to the water as opposed to some other cause.”
The jury awarded the plaintiffs $1,145,000 in damages, finding Otay Water District responsible for 45 percent of the damages, Eastlake Company for 45 percent, and Bremco for 10 percent.