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Germantown Village Board reconsiders insurance claim decision for water main break

May 13, 2013

Germantown — The Germantown Village Board next week will reconsider whether to uphold their insurance company's denial of a claim involving a water main break that caused damage to a home on Bridle Path in February.

After water entered their basement due to a main break, Germantown residents Ledale and Donna Peter filed a claim with the village, seeking coverage for the damages. The Peters and a few neighbors on Bridle Path said it took four hours to turn the water off and caused between $15,000 and $20,000 in damage to their basement and home's infrastructure. The Peters' insurance company does not cover that type of damage. They then filed a claim with Statewide Services, the village's insurance company, which also denied it.

In order for the village to be held liable, it would have to be proven that the village was negligent, Village Administrator Dave Schornack said. In this case, insurance company officials said they do not believe the village was negligent, therefore the claim was denied.

"In this case, I certainly don't believe the village was negligent in anything," Schornack said.

The Village Board upheld the insurance company's decision at its April board meeting. At its May 6 meeting, the board voted to reconsider that decision at 7 p.m. May 20 at Village Hall. The decision to re-agendize the item, voiding the original vote, came after about a dozen neighbors and relatives of the Peters said they believe the village is responsible to pay for the damage.

Once a claim is filed, the insurance company immediately conducts an investigation, Village Attorney Brian Sajdak said at the meeting May 6. The Village Board has 120 days to decide whether they agree or disagree with the insurance company's decision. This timeline started Feb. 23 when the Peters filed their original claim.

The Village Board has three choices come May 20: pay the claim; uphold the insurance company's decision to deny the claim; or do nothing. Should the board decide to once again uphold the insurance company's decision, a letter of disallowance will be sent to the Peters. This starts a new, six month deadline for the residents to file a formal claim, meaning a lawsuit with the insurance company, Sajdak said. If nothing is done, when the 120 days run out, a letter of disallowance will be sent out.

Neighbors and relatives of the Peters are hoping it does not get to that point, asking the Village Board to cover the costs.

Angela Dempewolf, the Peters' granddaughter, urged the Village Board to reconsider.

"No attorney has been consulted, no legal action has been filed. We would prefer to resolve this with the village and Statewide, but if the village continues to dismiss my grandparents' concerns we will do everything to right this wrong," Dempewolf said. "In closing, we believe the village is negligent because the water flooded into their yard for four and a half hours."

Trustee David Baum made the motion to reconsider the claim. It was approved unanimously.

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