...The Gift That Keeps Giving.
January's water main break damaged more than the city's finances and did more than disrupt water service to numerous municipalities. It has also put a big dent in the wallets of at least two homeowners. Matthew Dolan and Paul Cook, both of 5th Avenue, have suffered foundation
damage due to the flooding caused by the break.
According to the Times Union, the Cooks face up to $17,000 in foundation repairs. Dolan's costs may be more than $13,000. Both were blown-off by their respective insurance companies.
While Cook's damage appears to be as a direct result of water damage, Dolan's damages appears to be the result of saturated soil that seeped into foundational cracks. Dolan should continue to pursue an insurance claim. Insurance companies, like good catholic girls, always say no at first. Cook is likely out of luck.
Our sympathy goes out to the two homeowners. There, but for the grace of God...and so on.
Both owners could bring a claim against the City of Troy. That is a long term, long-shot, solution. Such a claim could take two or three years to wind its way through the courts. They also have a heavy lift. Suits against municipalities are difficult. There are strict time limitations and a host of governmental immunities that come in to play that protect municipalities.
The would-be plaintiff's would also have to establish that the city was negligent. That is another tall order. There is really no evidence of negligence in this instance, although discovery might find some liability against the city.
It would be very difficult to establish that the city was on notice of the specific defect that caused the damage. What about the report that expressed concerns about this very main, you ask? Good question but unless the report gave the city notice of the specific defect (the main will break here because of ...) that will not be enough.
Even if the city is negligent, the city owes no special duty to the Cook's or Dolan. That is, they owe those two owners the same duty the owe all other residence, not a special duty. Unless, of course, the special duty rule does not apply. Perhaps one of our lawyerly readers can weigh in.
We would advise against any settlement. Not that we don't feel for the owners, it's just a numbers game. This will become more and more common and city finances cannot be compensating owners every time aging infrastructure fails.