By Naomi Klouda
In the second lawsuit in March to be leveled against the City of Homer, a local couple whose home was sewer damaged in a severe January storm is seeking $185,000 in compensation.
Kenneth and Theresa Halpin filed a lawsuit March 7 that outlines the case. On Jan. 13, the sewage line from Homer solid waste backed up through the Halpin’s home on Early Spring Street. It continued to back up sewage for more than four feet above ground level, gushing in to flood the dwelling, “destroying and damaging the walls, flooring, carpeting, insulation, vapor barriers, vinyl, tile, carpet pad, molding, sheetrock, cabinetry, paneling, paint, doors, heat registers, trim, electrical outlets, underlayment, ductwork, vents, appliances, furnace, fixtures, personal property and other items.”
Flooding and sanitary problems made the home dangerous to safely occupy and contaminated the property, the suit alleges. The city failed to take proper precautions to prevent sewage and wastewater collected by the system from discharging into the Halpin’s residence. It also “fail(ed) to properly install, clean, maintain, inspect or repair Defendant’s sewer drainage system, including manholes and other portions of the Defendant’s sewer drainage system,” the lawsuit states.
Attorney C. Michael Hough, representing the Halpins, points to legal obligations on the part of the City of Homer to provide proper sewer removal services. The residence was rented out to a paying occupant who had to move out, resulting also in loss of rental money.
Prior to the lawsuit, the City of Homer agreed to pay out $3,500 to each of the renters or homeowners where the flooding occurred. The sewage became backed up and flooded after an extraordinary storm Jan. 12 caused more water to enter the sanitary sewer system than it could process, Public Works Director Carey Meyer had told the Homer City Council.
Beyond that, the city has said it wasn’t obligated to offer more of a settlement due to the “act of God” as outlined in tort law, or force majeure. This is a legal term for events outside of human control, such as sudden floods or other natural disasters, for which no one can be held responsible.
The city has 30 days to respond to the complaint.
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