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When a Harrison Avenue water main burst, BWSC should have gotten right on the phone and called car owners to move their vehicles, insurance company claims in suit

Flooded cars after water-main break

A flooded parking lot after the water-main break. Photo by BFD.

Liberty Mutual alleges, in a lawsuit filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, that the BWSC caused a 2020 flood along Harrison Avenue in the South End on April 14, 2020 by overpressuring its mains, including the 30-inch wide pipe that burst, flooding basements and parking garages and lots.

In its suit, on behalf of a policy holder whose garaged 2019 BMW was ruined by the water, the Back Bay-based insurer claims that BWSC also failed to call or text car owners to let them know they should move their cars, more specifically, its customer:

The BWSC and its agents had the phone number or ability to communicate with the Plaintiff's Insured, his building, the garage where the car was parked or his agents over the hours in which the water accumulated, to ask Plaintiff's Insured or his agents to move the Insured Vehicle car to try to avoid or mitigate any damages. ...

Plaintiff's Insured was available and could have been contacted on April 14, 2020 after the Water Main break and in the following hours by phone, text, email or in person to move his 2019 BMW from the area, or have it removed, to avoid damages or to mitigate damages. ...

The BWSC owed a duty to the Plaintiff's Insured(s) beyond that owed to the general public and had a special relationship with the Plaintiff's Insureds because the Insured Vehicle was readily identifiable at the scene of dangerous flooding.

This special relationship gives rise to a duty to act with reasonable care to prevent harm where the BWSC reasonably could foresee that it would be expected to take affirmative action to protect the Plaintiff's Insured(s) and could anticipate harm to the Plaintiff's Insured from its failure to do so.

Liberty Mutual says that had BWSC contacted its policy holder, he would have moved this car from the garage in which it was parked. Instead, it suffered major water damage. The insurer says BWSC needs to pony up $44,901.63, plus interest and attorney's fees. The company says it actually paid out $54,174.38, but subtracted the roughly $9,600 it got when what was left of the car was sold at auction.

In addition to failing to call its customer, Liberty Mutual says the commission is to blame for the disaster because the alleged main overpressuring led to the main cracking and bursting "due to hydraulic shock of so called water hammer effects" and that this was compounded by poorly trained workers and "insufficient and defective management of the water mains and operations" and "failures to inspect and repair the water mains."

In addition to failing to call its customer, Liberty Mutual says the commission is to blame for the disaster because the alleged main overpressuring led to the main cracking and bursting "due to hydraulic shock of so called water hammer effects" and that this was compounded by poorly trained workers and "insufficient and defective management of the water mains and operations" and "failures to inspect and repair the water mains."

Complete complaint (1.7M PDF).

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Comments

that looks just like Piazza San Marco during the Acqua Alta.

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Voting closed 19

Or is the insurance company saying that BWSC could have called the garage, and the garage had contact information for all garage-users, and should have called the owners of all cars parked there? If so, perhaps the garage should be party to the suit as well.

But even then, I feel it might be a bit doubtful that the owner could have extracted the car in a safe and timely fashion. They might not even have been allowed in.

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Voting closed 29

The city should have access to a phone number for the owner of every car garaged in Boston. If not the city, then the management company for the condo would have phone numbers for everyone in the garage, and the contact information for the management company is posted by the entrance to the building.

But as you said, we don't know if the owner could have gotten their car out safely even if they had known. And during an emergency like that, saving automobiles from flooding was probably not BWSC's top concern.

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Voting closed 7

I don't know how they would have reached the BMW's owner but the city has emergency notification systems. I know people that live in basements in that area. There should have been a communication to residents, but there was nothing. it took a while to flood the garage, it wasn't a flash flood.

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Voting closed 15

The city should have phone #'s of every car owner ? What world do you live in? Even if they did, figuring out who to call (& how?!) Is a whole additional step, and if after business hours .. hlagain, who would sort through the non-existent database and wmhow would they know which streets & car owners to call?

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Voting closed 3

The city sends me alerts all the time.

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Voting closed 5

It may have been a commercial vehicle where the city requires your contact info to be on the side of the vehicle to enjoy commercial parking privileges. Many real estate agents do this and given it was a BMW, that is probably the situation at hand.

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Voting closed 4

Will spend $500,000 to defend a $50k claim. File BWSC legal team in the same category as the City of Boston’s.

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Voting closed 8

Well if they settle or give up the claim then every other person who had things damaged in the flood is going to go for their piece of the pie. Spend 500k to defeat a 50k claim and 100 other 50k claims.

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Voting closed 4

Does that stand for something like Boston Water and Sewer Commission? Please spell out less common acronyms when you first use them - most of us know the ones that show up here frequently, but I don't remember seeing BWSC before. Thx.

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Voting closed 10

Just in case you didn't know what BMW was for either, though they originally were known for airplane engines which is why their logo is meant to invoke a spinning propeller against the sky.

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Voting closed 22

You're thinking of the Mercedes logo.

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Voting closed 4

Thought I never owned a home in Boston, I’m well aware what BWSC stands for.

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Voting closed 19

AM/PM “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem”

I'll let someone else tell you what MOFO means.

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Voting closed 11

Also, BFD is Boston Fire Department, and PDF is Portable Document Format. :-)

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Voting closed 4

That last point was so important it needed to be said twice.

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Voting closed 13

Liberty Mutual thinks that sending someone to retrieve a car into a flooding garage, is reasonable? Sounds unsafe.

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Voting closed 15

You buried the lede!

HEADLINE: If you bought a 2019 BMW at auction for $9k in 2020, it had probably suffered significant water damage.

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Voting closed 16

The salvage title is a huge hint.

Most of these don't go to a traditional gaveled auction anyway. They get sold off in lots, essentially as well-tracked scrap. The buyers are well aware what happened to the vehicles.

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Voting closed 6