Water company ruined our weekend cottage?
November 15, 2006 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Water company ruined our weekend cottage?

When we leave our weekend cottage we turn the water off at the meter and open the faucets in the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and shower. This is to prevent any trapped water to remain in the pipes which could freeze and burst the pipe should we not make it back before winter. We've done this for four years.

June 2006 – one of the neighbors failed to pay his bill (he's often gone 2-3 months at a time with his work). He gets back to town, settles up with the water company, asks to have his water turned back on and leaves town again. August 2006 – we get a water bill for $1122. We call the water company and a neighbor. The neighbor has a key and goes into our house to find the water pouring into the drains from the wide-open faucets. The water company shows up while the neighbor is there and tells her they turned on the wrong water. The water company credits our water bill and the next water bill for $435. They tell us they don't have someone they can send out to inspect the damages but for us to take pictures and let them know what the repair costs will be and they will "see what they can do." We make the 10 hour trip to inspect the damages – all the cabinets, doors, and furniture are warped from having seven weeks of humidity in the house (no a/c running while we're gone). There is black mold growing on the walls. We call a company that does restoration work for fire and water damage. The cost to clear the house of the mold will run $10K. They will rip out walls, ceilings, flooring, bathroom fixtures, etc. They will treat the studs and ensure all mold is gone. Then comes the restoration process which will be another $50K.

We send the estimates to the water company and their attorney notifies us that they "own the meter" and have "exclusive rights to the meter and shut off valve." The Water Company had asked us to let them know what the damages were. They credited two months worth of invoices. Now they deny any responsibility for the damages.

Our insurance will not cover it because the primary problem is mold and it is an exclusion in most all policies these days.

Do we have any recourse?
posted by cainiarb to Law & Government (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
aaaah the words, they're blinding me


sounds like they were admitting liability to me. their attorney is of course trying to get them out of it because that's his job. your attorney's job is to lay the smack down. With this much money on the line you should at least find one and go for a consultation.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:14 PM on November 15, 2006


Yes. You can sue them.
posted by Kololo at 7:15 PM on November 15, 2006


There's a reason that we have a 'more inside' function.

But yes, lawyer up, cowboy.
posted by SpecialK at 7:16 PM on November 15, 2006


Signal-to-noise so far on this sucks.

Long answer short: there is no way that anyone on Ask Metafilter is qualified to give you advice in this situation. You need to find a lawyer now.
posted by WCityMike at 7:27 PM on November 15, 2006


You sue them, their insurance pays you.
posted by smackfu at 7:48 PM on November 15, 2006


get a lawyer ... sue them

We send the estimates to the water company and their attorney notifies us that they "own the meter" and have "exclusive rights to the meter and shut off valve."

i have exclusive rights to my car ... that doesn't mean i can run people over with it and expect to get off scot free

lawyer ... now
posted by pyramid termite at 7:53 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


SpecialK, according to my eyes, the poster used the 'more inside' function quite competently. But yeah, get a good lawyer and fight this thing.
posted by notswedish at 8:26 PM on November 15, 2006


their attorney notifies us that...

Their attorney is obligated to do what is in his/her client's best interest. If there's a solution that is in your best interest but not the client's, he should not tell you about it. The fact that the attorney is communicating with you, rather than someone in a customer service postion, suggests to me that such a solution does exist.
posted by winston at 9:05 PM on November 15, 2006


I would get an attorney and pay him on a contingency as a percentage of what you collect. First, you will know right away what he thinks of your case if he accepts. Second it changes the risk of additional cost to him, although it does reduce your payoff. Essentially you pay the repair work portion instead of your attorney.

I think you have a good case. IANAL, but I wish I were.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:08 PM on November 15, 2006


Sue, sue, sue it is the thing to do!

The next thing you need to do is to add another shut off valve between the main and yor faucets so that next time this happens you aren't screwed again. Hey, maybe you can get that cost added into the settlement agreement?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:20 PM on November 15, 2006


Definitely contact a lawyer tomorrow. You did the right thing and you shouldn't be on the hook for the water company's mistake.
posted by BackwardsCity at 9:27 PM on November 15, 2006


Wow. Yes. Sue.
posted by limeonaire at 10:19 PM on November 15, 2006


IAAL. Get your own.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:32 PM on November 15, 2006


Regarding their lawyer's comments, I don't know how the water system generally works in your country, but here we have a meter at the roadside, and then a stopcock that's on our property, where the water comes into the house.

If we need to turn the water off, we turn it off at our stopcock. I don't think we're supposed to go messing around with the main meter.

Think about it -- if you were supposed to be able to turn the water on and off at the meter, why would the water company bother turning it off at the meter for people like your neighbour who haven't paid their bills? He'd just go out there and turn it back on again.

So it might not be such an obvious case of them being entirely at fault and you entirely not being.
posted by chrismear at 12:46 AM on November 16, 2006


You might consider a public adjuster in addition to a lwayer. They will speak the magic words to your insurance company.
posted by fixedgear at 2:11 AM on November 16, 2006


You need immediate legal representation before you speak to the company again. They should definetly be on the hook for most of the damage. Lawyer up!

Also call the local media. They'd probably love to hear about your story. The company won't like that one bit.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:02 AM on November 16, 2006


there is no way that anyone on Ask Metafilter is qualified to give you advice in this situation

Stop babysitting AskMe. The question was if there was any recourse to be had. There are plenty of people here who could answer that question, and already have: sue.

Also call the local media. They'd probably love to hear about your story. The company won't like that one bit.

Before that, tell them you're considering going to go to the media. The threat of public attention might be a more effective tool than actual public attention, which, in a fit of obstinateness could make them dig their heels in.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:47 AM on November 16, 2006


there is no way that anyone on Ask Metafilter is qualified to give you advice in this situation

Stop babysitting AskMe.

Stop telling me how to answer a question. The OP asked if they had any recourse. That's a question that should be answered by an attorney they've retained, with whom they're in a lawyer-client relationship, who has exhaustively interviewed them and then made a study of the facts and of relevant legal statutes in the state they're in.
posted by WCityMike at 4:52 AM on November 16, 2006


IAAL ... but not your lawyer. This is not legal advice.

Speak to a lawyer! But be prepared for bad news.

I think you will find that they do own the meter and that valve.

If your lawyer tells you that you have a case ask him "why and how" ... you wouldn't want to be the poor sap paying for his holiday to Aspen this year after he looses the case.
posted by jannw at 5:48 AM on November 16, 2006


(Notswedish - The original post was edited by Jessamyn. It was originally one big long paragraph on the front page. She just didn't edit my post...)

jannw has a good point. Ask HOW the lawyer will go after, and ask him to produce some case history showing other cases similar that have been won. You'll need to prove that the water company was negligent in turning on the wrong water; to prove this, you might need to prove that you were NOT negligent in leaving your water taps open inside the house.

And don't talk to them again, even to say if you're not going to the media to tell your story, UNTIL YOU HAVE A LAWYER.
posted by SpecialK at 6:08 AM on November 16, 2006


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