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Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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$50 million in damages sought over grounding of New Carissa

EUGENE — State lawyers are seeking $50 million in damages from the foreign owners of the New Carissa, the ship that went aground on the North Spit of Coos Bay in 1999.

They say the owners helped prevent a contractor from trying to remove the ship's stern from waters outside Coos Bay in 2000.

The punitive damages would be on top of a request in earlier filings for a court order to remove the stern and payment of $1,500 per day in "storage charges" dating to Feb. 4, 1999, the day the ship went aground, and continuing for each day the wreck remains on the beach.

As of today, those costs would total $1,387,500.

A motion to amend the original lawsuit to include the claim for punitive damages will be argued in a telephone conference hearing Friday in the courtroom of Coos County Circuit Court Judge Richard Barron. A trial has been set for October but the defendants are seeking to have that date postponed.

The proposed lawsuit amendment says Donjon/Devine Joint Venture, the contractor on the stern-removal effort, was ready to go to work in May 2000 but that the New Carissa ownership prohibited it. An affidavit in support of the motion to amend the lawsuit quotes a letter from a Donjon/Devine attorney to an insurance representative for the ship saying the defendants were not allowing the salvage contractor to return to work to save "approximately $3 million."

Later, the state said, the Donjon/Devine contract was amended to pay the company to help the New Carissa owners keep the stern on the spit.

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