BERWYN – Farmers Insurance Co. has filed a lawsuit against Cook County and many Cook County municipalities alleging local governments failed to properly act to prevent damage caused by heavy rains last spring. Similar lawsuits were filed the same day in DuPage, Will and Lake counties.
The rain April 17 and April 18 caused widespread flooding and led Gov. Pat Quinn to declare declared 48 counties – including Cook County – state disaster areas.
In addition to Cook County, also named in the suit are the city of Berwyn and the villages of Brookfield, La Grange, La Grange Park, Western Springs and Westchester. The city of Chicago, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County were also named, among many others.
Berwyn City Attorney Anthony Bertucca said that, while he was aware that Berwyn had been named in the suit, the city had yet to be served with a copy of the lawsuit, and he declined to comment without first reading the suit.
The Des Plaines River near Des Plaines experienced record-high flood crest levels of 10.88 feet on April 19, 2013. Near Lyons and Riverside, the water level in areas around the Des Plaines River and Salt Creek were at 9.66 feet April 18.
Stuart Brody, the insurance company's attorney, and Trent Frager, spokesman for Farmers Insurance, both declined to say how much the company is trying to recover in damages.Frager said the company filed the lawsuit because they believe the damage caused was “completely preventable.”
“Farmers has taken what we believe is the necessary action to recover payments made on behalf of our customers, for damages caused by what we believe to be a completely preventable issue, as well as to prevent it from happening again," Frager said in a statement.
Farmers said in the suit that the flooding could have been mitigated by better management of retention and detention basins, proper operation of tributary open and enclosed sewers and drains and the erection of proper barriers.
The lawsuit alleges the counties and municipalities were aware of this, based on prior flooding and studies.