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Single lawsuit sought in spraypark case

Three law firms representing 663 people who became ill after visiting the Seneca Lake State Park Sprayground last summer want to combine their efforts into one class action lawsuit.

A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 18 in Syracuse, where the Seattle firm of Marler Clark and Rochester attorney Paul Nunes of Utterberg & Kessler will ask a Court of Appeals judge to let them join their cases with those of the Dreyer Boyajian law firm in Albany.

Nunes and the Seattle firm were already working together on a class action suit against the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which owns and runs the park.

The three firms want to team up because they have an expertise in class action lawsuits involving food-borne and water-contamination illnesses, Nunes said.

The sprayground was closed Aug. 15 after about 40 people complained of a gastrointestinal illness. In subsequent weeks, the outbreak grew to nearly 4,000 people across the nation.

The state Health Department determined the illness was cryptosporidiosis, caused by a microscopic parasite.

During the January hearing, the attorneys also will ask Judge Nicholas J. Midey to certify the class action lawsuit, Nunes said.

“It’ll formalize and consolidate our lawsuit,” Nunes said. “By certifying it, it will show that this is an appropriate lawsuit to be handled in a class action suit.”

Assistant Attorney General Ed Thompson, who is representing the Parks Department, said the certification is just the next step in filing a class action suit.

“It’s just a procedure. This is very, very early on in the suit,” Thompson said.

The lawsuit will seek compensation for damages, including pain and suffering, as well as medical expenses and lost wages.

Wendy Gibson, spokesperson for the state parks office, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Working with the state Health Department, the state parks department has started rewriting regulations governing water quality at all sprayparks and hopes to implement them by February.

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