The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a Webster City church can collect damages from a problem that was buried for nearly three decades.
It all started in 1978 when Webster City was installing a new water main. A city contractor working on the water main cut the sewer line from St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Court documents say the contractor then used the wrong type of pipe to route the sewer line around the water line.
Fast-forward 27 years to June of 2005 and the faulty repair of the sewer line caused it to back up and spew sewage into the church, causing over $30,000 in damage.
The church filed a claim saying the city was negligent in cutting and repairing the sewer line. A jury found the city negligent, but the district court judge determined the faulty reconnection of St. Paul’s sewer line was a part of the overall water main improvement project, and the law requires claims for improvement projects to be filed no more than 15-years after the project is completed.
The Iowa Supreme Court reversed the district court, saying the work on St. Paul’s sewer line is better characterized as an ordinary repair. The justices say a perfectly good, functioning sewer line was in place before the city began its water main improvement project — and the work on the sewer line was not to improve it, but rather to repair damage resulting from the water main project.