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Farmer's Insurance Co. suing Cook County municipalities, including Lemont, over flood damages

Farmers Insurance Co. has filed a lawsuit against Cook County and many of its municipalities, including Lemont, alleging local governments failed to properly act to prevent damage caused by heavy rains last spring.

The rain April 17 and April 18, 2013 caused widespread flooding, and led Gov. Pat Quinn to declare declared 48 counties – including Cook County – state disaster areas.

Similar lawsuits were filed the same day in DuPage, Will and Lake counties.

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, in the suit.

Lemont Village Administrator George Schafer said the village had not yet been served the lawsuit as of Monday.

"Although village officials have been made aware of the lawsuit, the village has not been officially served with a complaint and do not intend to comment on the pending litigation at this time," Schafer said.

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.

Margo Ely, executive director of the Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency, said her agency will likely be representing about 30 area municipalities named in the lawsuits.

"We really think it has no merit," Ely said of the suit.

Ely accused Farmer's Insurance Co. of effectively "double dipping" on their customers – once when they paid their policy and again if they win in court, which would be paid by taxpayers. Ely said homeowners get flood insurance to cover exactly the situation that occurred during the flooding.

Dan Farnham contributed to this report.

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