MAHER LAW FIRM SECURES $3.3 MILLION SETTLEMENT OVER BAD WATER
After years of fighting their private utility company over potentially contaminated water, the residents of Orlando’s Wedgefield community will finally regain one of life’s most basic necessities—clean water.
Attorneys Jason Fraxedas and Matt Mokwa from The Maher Law Firm in Winter Park, Fl., have successfully negotiated a $3.3 million settlement. But the victory is not just financial.
"We knew when we took on this case that one of our biggest goals was to ensure that the residents of Wedgefield had safe water. And that’s what this settlement does,” said Attorney Fraxedas. "In addition to homeowners being financially compensated on a pro rata basis, Pluris Wedgefield has agreed to independent and spontaneous water testing for the next three years. And if anything comes back not perfect, then that time period is extended."
The lawsuit, filed in April 2020, claimed that Pluris exposed Wedgefield customers to potentially harmful levels of chemicals. For years, Wedgefield residents raised concerns about the quality and cost of the water. Some residents had attempted to convince Orange County to purchase the utility in the hopes of improving water quality and stabilizing pricing. Complaints included issues such as over-chlorinated water with an unpleasant taste and water that bleached laundry.
"We found through our independent testing and experts in 2016 that Pluris' water in the Wedgefield community showed high levels of disinfection byproducts. When we picked up the case in 2017, we did further testing that again showed high levels, but this time different byproducts. Our theory of case: Pluris was selling water to the customers that was supposed to meet rigorous standards required by The Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But they weren’t. So it becomes a breech of contract case. Simply put: Customers weren’t getting what they paid for," Attorney Fraxedas said.
One of the chemicals mentioned in the lawsuit was TTHM (total trihalomethane) is colorless, tasteless and potentially toxic. Attorneys Fraxedas and Mokwa argued that the exposure to these chemicals could lead to increased risks of cancer, liver problems, kidney issues, and other health concerns.
"Imagine being nervous to bathe your kids in your own bathtub or cook with water from the faucet," said Attorney Mokwa. "We knew taking on this case was going to be a very complicated legal battle. But it was the right thing to do."
The case was a huge victory that took years of intense litigation. The settlement was approved by Circuit Court Judge Margaret Schreiber in Orlando and also requires Pluris Wedgefield to conduct periodic, independent sampling and testing of water from its Wedgefield facility over the next three years. The settlement applies to customers who purchased water from Pluris between April 12, 2016, and Dec. 29, 2022, and approximately 4,900 individuals were listed as customers during this period. Pluris Wedgefield, a privately-owned utility based in Texas, did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The company provides water and wastewater services in several states, including Alabama, North Carolina, and Texas. Previously, Pluris had defended the safety of the water in Wedgefield. "Clean, safe drinking water should be a basic human right. The Wedgefield Community has had a legitimate concern for a long time that they weren’t getting what they paid for. It was a difficult case, but we’re happy to have provided some level of relief for the plaintiffs so that they can be reimbursed and be assured moving forward in the future that they’re water is safe," said Attorney Fraxedas.