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Published: 5/21/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Appeal allows flooding case to go forward

29 in Bennett Road area sued city contractor for ’11 damage

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A pub owner and 28 others assert that negligence by city contractors doing a sewer repair caused the flooding in their West Toledo neighborhood in August, 2011. An attorney representing them said damage amounted to between $500,000 and $750,000. A pub owner and 28 others assert that negligence by city contractors doing a sewer repair caused the flooding in their West Toledo neighborhood in August, 2011. An attorney representing them said damage amounted to between $500,000 and $750,000.
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A West Toledo pub owner and 28 other property owners in the vicinity of Bennett Road whose basements were inundated by flooding in 2011 will get their day in court following a ruling of the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs in the case — headed by Sarah and Geoffrey Snyder of Fairview Drive and all of the Bennett Park neighborhood — claim that errors by city contractors working on a sewer repair caused surface water to flow into a group of houses and a pub, and sewage to back up into another group of homes.

According to Phillip Bazzo, of Troy, Mich., the attorney handling the case, there was damage of between $500,000 and $750,000. His co-counsel is Daryl Rubin of Toledo.

Ted Wilczynski, 73, owner for the last 31 years of the Pour House Tavern, said that by the time he got to the pub on Aug. 18, 2011, the basement was filled with water and it was “bubbling” around his pool table on the first floor. He lost appliances, supplies, more than 50 cases of beer, and bottles of wine and whiskey, and had a basement wall partially caved in, with total damages of about $73,000.

He said he’s glad that the suit will go forward for himself and for neighbors whose basement walls collapsed.

“Yes I am happy. Maybe I’ll get something, maybe I won’t,” Mr. Wilczynski said. He said there was no insurance to cover the flood damage.

“For me to do this work, it took all the savings I had to get back in business,” Mr. Wilczynski said.

The suit is one of three cases Mr. Bazzo has in the courts for people in the vicinity of Bennett and Laskey roads for “water home invasion” floods starting in 2006.

The appeals court’s May 10 ruling was in response to a decision by Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Jensen in June, 2012. In his decision, Judge Jensen granted a motion to dismiss the case by Gleason Construction Co., agreeing with the contractor’s contention that the property owners had missed a four-year statute of limitations because they knew as far back as 2000 that their property was vulnerable to damage.

The three-member appeals court did not address the statute of limitations issue but found that Judge Jensen erred in not basing his decision on the plaintiffs’ amended complaint.

Mr. Bazzo said Mayor Mike Bell visited the flooding site the same day and was heard by several people to issue an order to have the mats covering the sewer grates removed.

“Even Mike Bell realized how crazy and ignorant it was. He came out and inspected what had occurred. He realized what had occurred and gave directions to remove the catch basin mats,” Mr. Bazzo said.

Jen Sorgenfrei, a spokesman for the mayor, said he was not immediately available to comment. She said she did not remember him issuing that order, and said, “The city is not a party to this litigation and we’re not inclined to get involved.”

One of Gleason’s arguments is that it was acting under government authority and thus was immune from suit.

According to Leslie Kovacik, a city attorney working on the flood lawsuits, environmental regulations require contractors to cover sewer grates to keep construction debris out of the sewers. “The mats are required by Ohio EPA as part of construction-site maintenance,” Ms. Kovacik said. Shannon George, a lawyer representing Gleason, declined to comment other than saying that “there are EPA regulations that will become a factor in the case.” Mr. Bazzo said the intent involving the mats is that they be removed when construction is halted. “There’s a requirement they allow this drain system to operate. Otherwise, these people have no storm water drainage,” Mr. Bazzo said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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