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Jesse Jones follow-up: City of Seattle admits negligence in sewer lawsuit

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Ivy Williams couldn’t be happier that the City of Seattle is admitting negligence in her lawsuit against the city.

Williams’ home was flooded twice with sewage in a two week period in December 2013. The city blamed the floods on her side sewer.

“They are no longer accusing me of causing the two floods I’m not sure how I’d be able to do that,” said Williams.

We told you about Williams’ story last month. She spent $6,000 on unnecessary side sewer upgrades after the city dropped off a flyer claiming the floods were her fault.

But after our report there was a change of heart from the city.

In an email written by Assistant City Attorney Scott Kennedy said, “The city plans to admit liability for negligence only, on the basis that its tree contributed to the backups.”

Attorney Richard Maloney believes the City of Seattle handled her situation poorly, “It’s not right to flood someone with sewage, it’s not right not to investigate it, it’s not right to treat an elderly woman the way they treated her”.

As a result, Attorney Richard Maloney filed a lawsuit on Williams’ behalf.

He says the City offered to pay clean-up costs to the insurance company plus $764 for both floods, which was an offer he rejected.

“They could have gone out of their way to clean her house they could have helped compensate her instead they tried to cheat her,” said Maloney.

Even though the city has claimed negligence for the damaged sewer, it doesn’t mean the case is over.

“They’ve made every indication that although they are admitting negligence, which we appreciate, they have every intention of making this the next world war,” Maloney said.

And now Ivy believe she has a fighting chance in court.

“I definitely have hope,” said Williams’.

City Attorney’s Statement:

“The City wanted to settle when this was a claim and has been trying to resolve this case since it was filed.  We have repeatedly asked Mr. Maloney, Ms. Williams’ attorney, to provide information about Ms. Williams’ damages.  Unfortunately, to date, he has refused.  We agree that the City should pay Ms. Williams something, but without this information, we have been unable to determine what we think the amount should be.  We hope that Ms. Williams will provide us with the needed information soon.” – Kimberly Mills, City Attorney’s Office

Attorney Richard Maloney’s Statement:

Dear Mr. Jones:

The City of Seattle would love to have Ms. Williams spend what little money she has left on expensive construction consultants, industrial hygienists, real estate appraisers, and other professionals she can ill afford.  Yet that is what she would need to do in order to satisfy the City’s demand for more “proof” of her losses.  The City knows it is asking for the impossible.

The law provides that when a person’s home is invaded by sewage, damages are available for the sadness, anger, apprehension, fear, and misery a sewage flood causes.  Seattle has previous paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in cases where similar wastewater flooding has occurred on this very basis. This is the crux of Ms. Williams’ claim. 

Ms. Williams tried, mightily, to resolve this matter without turning it into major, complex litigation.  Sadly, Seattle says that absent more proof of damages, it will not offer her anything.  In the meantime, it has added more lawyers to the fray, and it appears that the City is willing to pay far more to defend itself than it would have cost to settle.

To the taxpayers of this city, this ought to be an outrage.  By the time this case is done, a matter that would have resolved for $10,000 (or less) in November will now cost hundreds of thousands to defend.  And, at the end of the day, Seattle will pay Ms. Williams more than she asked for in the first place.  This is not responsible conduct by our City’s governance.

Sincerely,

Richard Maloney

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