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Farmers Insurance sues DeKalb County, 7 local municipalities over storm damage

Published: Friday, May 2, 2014 11:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 3, 2014 12:11 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – Farmers Insurance Co. is suing DeKalb County and seven local municipalities, claiming they didn’t do enough to stop damage caused by heavy rainfall in April 2013.

The city of DeKalb received record-setting rainfall of 4.01 inches April 17, 2013, with 4.67 inches falling over that day and the next, and the county was one of 33 in Illinois declared a federal disaster area. The Kishaukee River flooded, closing Taylor Street in DeKalb and sending some residents to DeKalb Public Works for free sandbags. It also forced residents in Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park near Sycamore and Ashbury Court East apartments on Taylor Street in DeKalb to evacuate.

But local leaders should have known the heavy rainfall would strain storm sewers and sanitary sewer systems and planned better, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Farmers Insurance, its policy holders and property owners who suffered extensive flood damage.

The lawsuit, filed April 17 of this year, names DeKalb County, as well as Hinckley, Sycamore, Malta, Shabbona, Sandwich, Genoa and DeKalb. Similar lawsuits were filed the same day in Cook, Will, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle and McHenry counties.

DeKalb City Manager Anne Marie Gaura and DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein said they had not received a copy of the lawsuit. Klein, who was aware of the DeKalb County lawsuit, said the insurance company seemed to be suing the county because it had rained.

“It’s hard to discern what exactly their claim is against DeKalb County, because it references so many places that aren’t in DeKalb County,” Klein said. “Obviously, the county can’t make it rain, and we can’t make it stop raining.”

The insurance company claims that municipalities could have managed the stormwater better by sandbagging retention basins so they could hold more water, blocking discharge culverts in those basins or pumping down stormwater storage basins, among other strategies.

It would have cost municipalities less to properly manage stormwater than it cost insurance companies and private owners to repair the damage, the company claims in its lawsuit.

Stuart Brody, the insurance company’s attorney, and Trent Frager, spokesman for Farmers Insurance, both declined to say how much Farmers is trying to recover in damages. Frager said the company filed the lawsuit because they believe the damage caused was “completely preventable.”

“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 to prevent it from happening again,” Frager said in a statement.

RAINFALL AMOUNTS

48-hour rainfall totals for April 17 to 18, 2013:

DeKalb: 5.67 inches

Genoa: 4.23 inches

Cortland: 4.78 inches

Shabbona: 4.53 in

Belvidere: 4.39 inches

Elburn: 4.25 inches

Note: The amounts were taken from 48-hour rainfall reports from the National Weather Service. In some instances, a municipality may measure rain in more than one location. The amounts listed were the highest total for that municipality.

Source: National Weather Service

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