Kodiak borough officials ponder appeal of judgment

Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2000

KODIAK (AP) -- The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly is waiting for the opinions of their attorneys before deciding whether to appeal a $1.35 million verdict, plus legal fees, against the borough in a civil negligence suit decided last week.

The case was brought by ''Joan Roe,'' the mother of a developmentally disabled client of a residential treatment program that was managed by the borough. The client claimed she was sexually assaulted by two employees, and bore a child by one.

The case claimed the borough was negligent in hiring two employees with known criminal records that included violence against women and problems with substance abuse, and that the borough ignored warning signs that the employees could harm clients.

Borough manager Dave Jensen said the borough was uninsured at the time of the incident in 1991 and has not set aside funds to deal with the impending liability.

''It's awful. No one could have anticipated the magnitude of this,'' Jensen said.

The verdict took the borough by surprise, he said.

''Even if we had contemplated it, it was nowhere near that kind of number,'' Jensen said. A final figure for the judgment, to include costs, has not been determined by the court.

''It is probably still a week or two away,'' said James Gilmore of Gilmore and Doherty, the Anchorage firm representing the borough.

''The actual judgment is going to be quite larger than the verdict,'' said attorney Kirsten Tinglum, who represents the mother of the developmentally disabled client. Tinglum said many out-of-state witnesses had to give depositions in their hometowns or fly into Kodiak, adding to the bill.

''There were a lot of travel costs,'' she said. ''We're trying to get the figure exactly right. That's what is holding the judgment.''

Before the trial, Tinglum sought $950,000 from the borough to settle out of court. The borough had offered $220,000, she said.

The borough will have 30 days to file an appeal after the judgment is rendered. Gilmore said the appeal process could take 18 months before a decision.

Gilmore said it was inappropriate for him to comment on the contents of the appeal his firm is considering.

Jensen said a major consideration is whether the judge's instructions to the jury were fair to the borough.

''If we're not successful (with an appeal) we'll have an obligation to pay this debt,'' he said.

Jensen said his office is examining ways to pay the sum. He said the borough could borrow money from a building maintenance fund to pay the judgment. He said raising taxes is another option, but a last resort.

''There are no easy answers here,'' Jensen said. ''We're working on it.''

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