Lawmakers Poised to Gut Law That Protects Homeowners’ Right to Sue Municipalities for Defective Sewers

Michigan residents’ could effectively lose their ability to sue their municipality when defective sewers flood their basement with raw sewage following a vote by lawmakers in the next few days  Lawmakers are set to vote on Bill 5282, which would enact sweeping changes to the existing sewer backup legislation that currently allows homeowners to sue for sewage backups caused by a defective sewer system. 

Liddle & Dubin P.C., a law firm that has filed lawsuits against municipalities on behalf of thousands of sewage backup victims, lambasted the potential changes to the current legislation.  “This is government protecting government at the expense of thousands of Michigan residents whose homes are flooded with sewage every year,” said Steve Liddle, one of the lawyers with the firm. 

“The current law was carefully crafted to find a balance between protecting governments from baseless lawsuits where negligence could not be established and protecting homeowners who experience devastating losses when their homes were flooded by a municipality’s failure to maintain or operate its sewer system.”

Three significant changes will occur if Bill 5282 is enacted.  The first change would afford municipalities blanket immunity if basement flooding occurs following a rain event that is likely to occur as often as every 5 years in Michigan.   

In contrast, permits issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality only allow a discharge of untreated sewage in the Great Lakes when the rain event is expected to occur every 25 years.  (See Attachment).  “It’s outrageous that at least some of your local officials think that it is more acceptable to pump sewage into your home than it is to discharge to the Great Lakes,” said Liddle.

Another significant change is the Bill’s grant of authority to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to approve the construction plans for a sewer system.  Despite the fact that the MDEQ approved many of the actions that led to the Flint water crisis, this new authority will block lawsuits by residents once a construction plan has received MDEQ approval, even if sewer backups were caused by the government’s negligence.    

Liddle is urging homeowners to speak out against the Bill by contacting their house representatives in Lansing.  “People should be angry about this and they need to be vocal if they want to protect their rights and their homes."  

Information on how to contact your Representative can be found here.

Liddle & Dubin, P.C. is one of the preeminent class action firms in Michigan.  The firm specializes in cases involving sewage backups, environmental contamination, governmental liability and complex consumer class actions.

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