Sewage-backup lawsuit payouts increase in 2015

Lawsuits over sewer issues costs Baton Rouge more than $1 million in 2015

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The City of Baton Rouge has seen an increase in settlement payments from lawsuits involving sewage-backups.

Officials say that the city-parish paid out more than $1.13 million settling lawsuits filed by residents whose homes received damage during sewage backups.

The payouts are an increase of 34 percent from the 2014 where the city-parish paid out $847,000 and an increase of 30 percent from 2013 where the city-parish paid out $872,500 to residents.

"This can cause a surcharge condition, backing sewer and rainwater into low lying homes," said Gene Booth, acting director of the Litigation and Risk Management in the Parish Attorney's Office. "The remainder of the cases are generally blockage in the city's lines or pump station issues."

Booth says the increase in claims in 2015 was largely due to the several heavy rains.

"In 2015, we had a number of rain events where the city-parish received a lot of rain in a short period of time," said Booth. "There generally is a direct correlation between the number of claims and the amount of rain in a given area."

City officials said that although many may believe that the ongoing Sanitary Sewer Overflow Control and Wastewater Facilities program that is currently working to upgrade the entire sewer system may be the problem, they hope that when the project is completed in 2018, it will reduce the number of backups resulting in the decrease of claims filed against Baton Rouge.

"I think there would be hundreds if not thousands of these suits if we had not done the SSO," said Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel.

At Wednesday's meeting, the Metro City Council approved another $74,000 to settle three lawsuits and introduced the settlements of three other lawsuits to be voted upon at the February 10 meeting.

Booth says that although the city receives lawsuits from property owners for sewer backups when the problem with within their own system and not the city's, they do not pay for those lawsuits.

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