SW Legal studies in Business

City Not Liable for Sewage Backup from City Sewer Line
Description

Appeals court held that a property owner who suffered damage from a sewage backup into his building due to excess grease in the sewer line, had no cause of action based on inverse condemnation against the city.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Inverse Condemnation; Eminent Domain; Sewage

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

A city sewer backed up and flooded the finished basement of a building owned by Rader. The problem was caused by grease from restaurants attached to the city sewer line. Rader spent $15,000 cleaning the basement and sued the city on the theory of inverse condemnation. In this case it was based upon a nuisance that was an unreasonable interference with the rights of the property owner. The city, which has the power of eminent domain, caused damage to the property which was not intentionally condemned or appropriated. The trial court held for the city. Rader appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Inverse condemnation is the exclusive remedy with private property is damaged by a nuisance operated by an entity having the power of eminent domain. The “taking” is the city’s creation of a nuisance. That requires a showing of notice and unreasonable operation in spite of that notice. The city had no notice of the extent of the problem caused by grease in the sewer line, so was not liable in negligence for not having taken action to deal with the problem. The fact that the city did not enforce an ordinance against dumping grease into the sewer system is not relevant to the case.

Citation Rader Family Limited Partnership v. City of Columbia, 307 S.W.3d 243 (Ct. App., Mo., 2010)

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