Ann Arbor homeowner $ 12,000 channel backup claim rejected in 8-3 council vote
ANN ARBOR, MI – Laurie Lounsbury said she found an inch of water in her basement last August because the city’s roots had grown through tree roots in a sewer pipe.
The city council has been at odds last week over whether to recognize the homeowner’s nearly $ 12,000 insurance claim against the city for personal items lost as a result of the incident.
Lounsbury, who said she was disappointed with the decision and is now considering her legal options, shared her story about the channel support with council members ahead of the vote.
“My claim is different from other claims,” she said. “I’m not asking the city to pay the damage for the canal support. I am only asking for compensation for the salvageable items illegally retrieved from my basement by Servpro workers who followed the sewer support. “
After the canal support, the city sent a public site supervisor to their home with a document saying that as a courtesy the city wanted to clean their basement, and Servpro, a cleaning and restoration company, did the job, Lounsbury said.
“Servpro representatives told me they were agents for the city of Ann Arbor and told me that the city’s insurance company would compensate me for my losses,” she said.
Servpro had her sign a document pre-approving that all items could not be saved before the company entered their Miller Avenue home, but she was convinced that Servpro would not take every item down in the basement she said.
“I was under extreme stress with my sister, who died of cancer when she came to visit, and my house smelled like sewage,” she said of her state of mind at the time.
Lounsbury said she was at work while Servpro was packing and picking things up in her basement, and she was horrified to find out later that they were taking items she wanted to save.
“The Servpro workers took away family heirlooms, music equipment and power tools that were on the shelves, most of which were serviceable and could have been cleaned,” she said.
Some rare first edition books that just “smelled damp,” including her copy of Jack London’s 1903 novel “The Call of the Wild,” were among the many items she sought to save, said Lounsbury, writer and co-founder of Groundcover News.
“I didn’t want to part with them, but the servpro woman told me I couldn’t get city insurance coverage if I didn’t let her take them,” she said.
“The city has never denied the value of these lost items, which I carefully calculated and presented to the city in a detailed 14-page table with a total value of $ 11,812.”
Servpro spokeswoman Kim Brooks said she couldn’t speak specifically about the Lounsbury incident as she didn’t have all the details. In a situation where the sewer system was secured, porous contaminated objects touched by the water would generally be considered unsaved.
“The industry standards are very strict about this,” she said. “If there was a case where a customer wanted to hold contaminated items, special authorization would be required and the customer would be asked to sign a special authorization form.”
Items that weren’t on the floor or touching water were still being picked up, Lounsbury said.
All items kept in her basement were removed in her absence and without her permission, Peter Davis, Lounsbury’s attorney, argued in a letter to the city.
Lounsbury filed a nearly $ 12,000 lawsuit against the city for the Aug. 27 incident, which was denied by the city’s insurance administration in February due to government immunity.
Lounsbury appealed the decision but the city council upheld it 8-3 on Monday evening April 5th.
Councilors Kathy Griswold, Jeff Hayner and Ali Ramlawi were against rejecting the request.
“I find it difficult to agree with the concept of state immunity,” said Hayner. “I understand what it is, but I think it’s some kind of cop and so I’m not going to agree.”
State immunity for channel support does not extend to “theft,” argued Lounsbury.
“The takeover of my property by the city agents and the false claim that all items were a total loss constitutes willful misconduct,” she told the city council. “I assume that your attorneys will point out to you that willful misconduct is gross negligence and therefore an exception to the state defense of immunity …”
Councilors Elizabeth Nelson and Linh Song, who are members of the city’s insurance board, declined to comment. Song referred questions to the prosecutor, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Mayor Christopher Taylor also declined to comment.
In a letter to the city council, the Lounsbury attorney, the city clerk who knocked on Lounsbury’s door last August and handed her an insurance claim, said the city was “apparently guilty” of the canal support.
The city’s work order shows that it was caused by “a root ball and a large amount of silt / dirt,” wrote Davis, arguing that this was a sewer failure for which the city is responsible. If Lounsbury takes the case to court, she can show that the fuse caused the fuse, Davis said, adding that she could also seek redress for mental agony and emotional stress.
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