The Livingston County Drain Commissioner makes every effort to be responsive to citizens needs when the unfortunate situation of a sewer backup occurs. Unfortunately, each case has its own unique set of circumstances which may affect any type of claim settlement that could ensue.
To aid you in understanding the complexities of liability in sewer damage claims, the following information is supplied by the County:
- The Municipality is not automatically liable for resulting damages whenever a sewer backs up. It is only liable for those damages if the backup was caused proximately by negligence on the part of the Municipality.
- Many homeowners insurance policies exclude damage resulting from sewer backups. Thus, homeowners often end up looking to the municipality to pay their damages when their own homeowner's insurer denies their claim.
- Some homeowners insurance companies do provide sewer backup coverage. Therefore, it is possible for homeowners to protect themselves against this risk.
- Michigan courts have made it clear that the municipality does not and cannot guarantee that its sewers will never backup.
Because a sewer is not a closed system, many things put into the sewer can clog the system. Large amounts of grease, cleaning wipes, and disposable diapers are common items that cause problems. While municipalities can adopt rules prohibiting dumping of these items into the sewer and can try to educate the public about the problems they cause, there is really no way they can absolutely prevent this from happening. Other factors can cause backups as well. Tree roots can grow into and obstruct the system and overload it.
The courts have made it clear that the municipality is liable for sewer backup damages only if the municipality's negligence caused the damage. There are four basic questions the courts look at in deciding this issue. The municipality is liable if the answer to all four is yes.
- Was there a defect in the municipality's sewer line?
- Did the municipality know, or should it have reasonably known, about the defect?
- Did the municipality fail to correct the defect within a reasonable time after learning of it?
- Did that failure by the municipality cause both the event and damages?
If the municipality exercises reasonable care in inspecting and maintaining its sewer lines, and if it responds to problems in a reasonable manner and time, it is not liable when sewer backups occur.
In order to comply with the requirements of Public Act 222, if you experience an overflow or backup of a sewage disposal system, you must file a written claim with the Livingston County Drain Commissioner, within 45 days after the overflow or backup was discovered. Notice should be mailed or delivered to the Livingston County Drain Commissioner at 2300 E. Grand River, Suite 105, Howell, MI 48843.
Failure to provide notice will prevent recovery of damages. Contact the Livingston County Drain Commissioner's office at 517-546-0040 immediately upon discovery of an overflow or backup.
Using these legal guidelines, the Livingston County Drain Commissioner has established procedures for dealing with sewer backups. If you do experience damages due to a sewer backup and wish to present a claim, please contact Livingston County Drain Commissioner's office, 2300 E. Grand River, Suite 105, Howell, 48843 or 517-546-0040, for additional information. We will review the claim information and do our best to achieve a reasonable outcome.
The filing of a claim does not guarantee any payment will be forthcoming, unless liability is determined.
Sewage Disposal Event Letter
Notice of Claim Forms can be downloaded, filled out completely by the homeowner, and sent to the Livingston County Drain Commissioner's office by mail or email:
Attention: Michelle LaRose, Deputy Drain Commissioner
2300 E. Grand River, Suite 105
Howell, MI 48843
To present a claim, you will be required to provide the following items:
- Copies of receipts for cleaning costs, plumbing bills, or other bills
- List of the damaged items and receipts to prove the ages and value of your items
- Please make an attempt to provide pictures, if possible, of anything you wish to claim that was damaged due to the sewer backup.
If you do not provide sufficient detail to support your claim, the items will lose much of their value.
Reimbursement for the Actual Cash Value of damaged items is the maximum amount payable.