By: Basch & Keegan
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Water Line Break Leads to Mudslide and Displacement of Over 100 Yonkers Residents from Their Homes
Over 100 residents of an apartment complex which houses seniors and disabled residents were forced to evacuate their homes due to the breakage of a nearby water main on March 11. The two buildings comprising the complex, linked by a common lobby area, back up to a dirt hill propped up by a retaining wall. A 25’x75’ portion of that retaining wall collapsed, which sent water, rocks, and mud cascading down the hill into the buildings below. The residents of the two buildings were immediately evacuated. The residents were permitted to return with an escort by local firefighters to retrieve personal effects such as clothing and medications two days later. However, residents who had requested to return to the building on Saturday to retrieve personal property were barred from doing so, due to fears of a second collapse. City officials expect that the building will not be deemed safe enough to be permanently re-entered by the residents for an additional two weeks. The city stated that a plan was also in the works to repair the old Croton Aqueduct, which could be contributing to the instability of the hill behind the complex.
The residents of these buildings with nowhere else to stay were given temporary housing in the local Police Activity League building, as well as local hotels, and were provided clothing and a food allowance by local authorities and the Red Cross. Due to the fact that the majority of these individuals were elderly or disabled, the Red Cross immediately encountered the additional complicating factor of ensuring that the evacuated residents were provided with any medicines they needed. Many evacuees had prescriptions that needed to be taken immediately, well before they would be permitted to return to the building to retrieve them.
Because the building is not entirely safe to enter, the amount of damage to the belongings of the residents is not yet clear. A prudent renter will always have renter’s insurance, which can generally be packaged with car insurance for minimal additional cost. However, damage from mudslides or landslides, like other “earth movements” such as earthquakes, may not be covered by standard renter’s insurance policies. Coverage for such damage can sometimes be added to an insurance policy for an additional premium. Depending on the ultimate resulting damage, and results from investigations into the causes of the mudslide, the residents and complex owner may wish to pursue an action against the city and public water utility for negligent maintenance of its water mains and the Croton Aqueduct. While actions against public entities can be difficult due to limitations imposed on the liability of government entities and shortened statutes of limitations compared to those applied to ordinary individuals or businesses, if attorneys can show that the public entity was aware of the danger and did not exercise reasonably prudent judgment in failing to remedy the danger, then they may be liable for damages. This can be done, for example, through evidence that investigations conducted on the portion of infrastructure in question showed a need for repair, yet the public entity failed to undertake those repairs.
If you’ve experienced property damage and need help making a claim against an insurer or another entity, contact attorneys who understand and have proven track records in the fields of insurance litigation and property damage. Basch & Keegan’s attorneys are well-versed in pursuing recovery for individuals in the Kingston, Ulster County, or greater Hudson Valley area. Call (845) 338-8884 for a free consultation.