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Lexington dam case brings $100,000 verdict

A Rockbridge County jury last week decided the city of Lexington should pay $100,000 to the family of a youth who drowned in a city park in 2006.

Friday’s verdict came after the case stalled in a 2009 jury trial and was revived with a 2011 opinion from the Supreme Court of Virginia. The high court reversed dismissal of gross negligence claims against the city based on a failure to warn.

Harrisonburg lawyer Sen. Mark Obenshain represented the family of 16-year-old Charles Volpe, who drowned while swimming with a friend at Jordan’s Point Park. The two were swept over a low-head dam and caught in a hydraulic at the base of the dam. The friend survived; Volpe did not.

Obenshain argued the city played “Russian roulette” by failing to inform the public about the danger the dam posed to swimmers when the current was high in the Maury River, according to The News-Gazette.

The Volpe lawsuit had sought $9 million. Obenshain said in a news release the family was “disconcerted” by the $100,000 award. He said the family was nonetheless comforted both by the finding of fault against the city and by the fact that the public attention led to safety measures at the park.

By Peter Vieth

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