Multiple Parties Argue Blame Over Flooded Homes in Nebraska City

April 27, 2016

The city of Bellevue, Neb., the Metropolitan Utilities District, a plumbing contractor and its insurance company disagree about who’s to blame for a ruptured water line that flooded about 12 homes in February.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Gearhart Plumbing, a Bellevue contractor, hit a water line while working to fix a collapsed sewer line, causing water, dirt and sewage to flow into the homes’ basements.

Bellevue City Attorney Patrick Sullivan said the city is disappointed that the contractor’s insurance company refuses to pay the homeowners’ claims.

Sullivan said these situations aren’t all that unusual, and normally one of the parties involved takes responsibility.

“Within days, adjusters come in, insurance company pays it, and we’re down the road to the next project,” Sullivan said. “This is a battle between parties, and neither one will admit an error.”

Gearhart Plumbing’s attorney says the water line was hit because the Metropolitan Utilities District didn’t mark it properly as requested.

The utilities district disagrees that it’s the source of the problem. A district spokeswoman says the district marked “rear of property,” as was requested by the contractor.

According to the city, the requests were to locate lines in the backyards of several homes, but not for Main Street, where the water line was located.

Columbia Insurance Group, Gearhart’s insurance company, has refused to pay homeowners’ claims, saying that the district had an obligation to mark all lines in the vicinity. A representative of the insurance company didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday.

At least a couple of the affected residents received compensation from their individual insurance companies, but most discovered that their policies didn’t cover the damage.

Sullivan said city officials are sympathetic to the homeowners but don’t have immediate plans to pay for damage. Councilman Steve Carmichael and other City Council members have said they wanted the city to help the residents, but Bellevue’s legal team and administration stopped the plan.

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