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Roger, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 31687
Experience:  BV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell; SuperLawyer rating by Thompson-Reuters
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My sewer line appears to have been damaged by a work crew that

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My sewer line appears to have been damaged by a work crew that was replacing the water main on my street. The problem started a couple of weeks ago when I noticed a wet carpet in my basement, and this was when the crew was digging the trench to install the new water line. I initially thought it was tree roots in the line, so I had a local plumbing contractor come and power snake my line. He removed some roots, but when he got about 65' out his bit stopped spinning. He hit something he could not get through... not roots. He placed a camera scope in the line watched until it went down underwater. Only blurry pictures after this, so no smoking gun evidence, but his opinion was that the clay pipe section was either offset or collapsed. He had a machine that can locate the camera underground with high accuracy, and the camera location where it hit the blockage was directly under the new asphalt (and new water line) that the work crew put down to deal the road. Since that time the sewer draining has gotten even slower to the point that I can not use my showers, washing machines and toilets. I am currently taking cost estimates from plumbing contractors for sewer line replacement in the event I will have to pay for this in the near future.

I live in Boulder, Colorado. The City publishes information on its city website that says the following...

"The city will determine the cause of the backup and assist if possible. Sewer customers should be aware that the sanitary sewer service line is the responsibility of the property owner up to and including the connection to the city-owned sewer main. If the problem is determined to be in the sewer service line, it is recommend that you call a plumber to investigate and resolve the problem."

Well, they are in effect saying that it is my responsibility to correct the problem that they (or actually, their contractor) caused. The plumbing contractor that I hired to power snake the sewer line also does sewer line replacement, and he gave me a cost estimate yesterday of $13.9K.

This does not seem at all fair to me. Why should I have to pay for damage caused by someone else? I had the sewer line cleaned out (for roots) approx. 2 years ago by a different plumbing contractor and I can prove that at that time the line was intact because he power rooted a full 100' length of sewer line. The backup problem started when they started digging and the damage in the line is directly below where they were digging (only 65' out) with a massive machine, so I am convinced this is not coincidence. What safeguards did the City of Boulder have in place to protect homeowners for damage caused by one of their contractors? A guy can do a lot of damage digging with a big track-hoe. Does the City have insurance to cover against things like this? Is the contractor bonded and insured?

Anyone can say "I am not responsible for this or that...", but shouldn't this be decided by a court?

I guess my simple question is... in your opinion should the City of Boulder, Colorado and/or its contractor be held responsible for damage caused by their contractor?
Hi - my name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a Real Estate litigation attorney. Thanks for your question. I'll be glad to assist.

The provision on the city's website would not exculpate it from liability if IT (the City) actually caused the damage to your sewer line. Thus, if you can prove that the City damaged your line, then it would be responsible for the repair.

You would have to go to the City and ask it to investigate and also consult with your plumber about the cause of the pipe's damage. If the City refuses to make the repair, and you have adequate proof that the damage was caused by the City, then you have the right to sue and seek damages from the City in an amount to cover the damages.

Thus, you should consult the City about it taking responsibility and correcting the damage, and if that isn't done, then you should consider hiring an attorney and discuss suing the City for the repair costs.
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