Settlement anticipated for hospital lawsuit

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

There is an anticipated settlement of the lawsuit filed by Crossing Rivers Health Medical Center against the town of Bridgeport, Crawford County and eight other defendants because of the mediation hearing on the matter on Sept. 6 in Madison.

An oral ruling by Judge Craig Day scheduled for Oct. 17 in Crawford County Circuit Court regarding a motion filed in the lawsuit has been canceled in anticipation of the settlement.

A letter to Day by Christine Rice of Simpson & Deardorff, S.C. of Milwaukee, states that the plaintiff, Crossing Rivers Health, along with defendants the town of Bridgeport, John Karnopp, Michael Steiner, and Alan Flansburgh, as well as intervenor Rural Mutual Insurance Company, reached a settlement at Friday’s mediation. The settlement, however, is contingent upon approval of the Crawford County Board.

The letter, dated Sept. 9, also requests that a status conference be scheduled for sometime in November.

“All parties are hopeful that final settlement/dismissal paperwork will be filed with the court by then, but in the event claims remain against the other parties in this matter, those claims can be addressed at the time of the status/scheduling conference,” the letter states.

Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed because the settlement is not yet final.

“Friday’s mediation hearing ultimately resulted in a collaborative working session,” said Crossing Rivers Health Chief Financial Officer Chris Brophy who noted that resolution of the matter is still pending. 

Representatives from the town of Bridgeport and Crossing Rivers Health were present at the mediation hearing. The mediator was attorney Patrick Fiedler, a member of the Wisconsin Association of Mediators and also of the Wisconsin Chapter of Mediators and Arbitrators based in Madison.

The hospital filed a lawsuit against the town of Bridgeport, Crawford County and eight other defendants on Feb. 21.

The lawsuit alleges that a road improvement project on Vineyard Road in 2016 left about half of the 105-acre Crossing Rivers Health property permanently underwater due to changes in drainage, and as a result, the property’s value has gone down.

The suit was filed in Crawford County Circuit Court and alleges the Bridgeport Town Board and Crawford County were negligent in the design, construction, supervision and inspection of the project that diverted surface water runoff from property north of the hospital. 

Through the lawsuit, the hospital was seeking a trial by jury, remediation and a restraining order against the rerouting of water toward Crossing Rivers Health property.

Neighbors say, up until five years ago, there was no permanent standing water on the property. If there was a heavy rain, the property would have a small amount of standing water for a short amount of time.

Four years ago, there was a two-to three-acre permanent “pond” on the property. Now the pond has grown to an estimated 15-20 acres and continues to gobble up farmland and encroach upon the hospital parking lot. The hospital and Crossing Rivers Health Clinic opened in 2015. The hospital, in the lawsuit, estimates the pond at 50 acres.

With a settlement anticipated for the lawsuit, it appears the matter will shift towards how to get rid of the permanent standing water on the hospital property. 

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