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Insurance company files suit against DuPage, Woodridge over severity of flood damage

Bill Ackerman –
Water gushes out of a sewer cover during severe flooding in the area in April 2013.
Bill Ackerman – Water gushes out of a sewer cover during severe flooding in the area in April 2013.

A national insurance company has filed a lawsuit against DuPage County, 29 of its municipalities – including Woodridge – and several neighboring counties, alleging they failed to take necessary steps to prevent and limit damage from the flooding of April 2013.

Illinois Farmers Insurance Company and its subsidiaries filed a proposed class action lawsuit April 17 on behalf of itself, other insurance companies and all those effected by what the suit calls "reasonably manageable" rains April 17 and 18 of last year.

In some areas of DuPage County, the total rainfall was greater than 7 inches during that time, according to the National Weather Service.

Had the various defendants properly prepared for the event and done their "duty to exercise ordinary care to maintain (their) property in a reasonably safe condition," as stated in Illinois Statute, the suit alleges the damage would not have been so great.

"Based upon prior sewer water invasions, this Defendant knew that members of the Plaintiff Class would be forseeably injured by breaches of these statutory duties," the suit states.

Farmers said in the suit that the flooding, which caused Gov. Pat Quinn to declare 48 counties disaster areas, 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.

However, residents were subjected to "sudden, dangerous and calamitous occurrences" that were so climactic that "elderly men and women and young children were forced to evacuate parts or all of their homes because of safety concerns."

Similar suits were filed in Cook, Dekalb, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and LaSalle counties on the same day, according to documents provided by Farmers officials.

DuPage County State's Attorney's Office spokesperson Paul Darrah said the county was served the lawsuit last week, but would not comment on pending litigation.

Jack Knight, spokesperson with the Village of Woodridge, said the village had not received notice of the suit as of Tuesday morning and therefore had no comment.

Farmers Insurance Media Relations Director Luis Sahagun declined to comment further on the suit, but offered a statement via email.

"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 prevent it from happening again," he said.

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, including Woodridge.

"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.


Municipalities named in the suit

Woodridge, Naperville, Elmhurst, Wheaton, Lombard, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Aurora, Westmont, Oak Brook, Lisle, Villa Park, Addison, Willowbrook, West Chicago, Winfield, Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Itasca, Bartlett, Wood Dale, Warrenville, Glendale Heights, Darien, Bloomingdale, Roselle, Carol Stream, Bensenville, Hanover Park

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