If we had a sewer crew come in to fix a broken pipe and they pulled out a gas line, are they liable for repair costs?

We had all the gas, phone and electricity lines flagged. There was one gas line, not the main but one that ran out to the outdoor grill. They were informed of this line. The crew brought in the backhoe to dig and pulled out this gas line. We now have to have this gas line repaired and also brought up to code. This line was placed before we moved into the house. The repair maybe quite costly, is the sewer company liable?

Asked on November 30, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Iowa

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You can sue the sewer company for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable sewer company would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  The sewer company is liable for the negligence of its employees which occurred during the course and scope of employment.

In order to prove negligence, you will need to prove duty of care (mentioned above), breach of duty of care (failure to exercise due care by damaging the gas line), actual cause, proximate cause and damages.  Actual cause means but for the sewer crew would the gas line have been damaged?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable, intervening events which would relieve the sewer company of liability?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  Damages means the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit for negligence.  Your damages would be the cost of repairs to the gas line including compliance with the code requirements.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages by selecting a gas line repair company whose charges are comparable to other gas line repair companies in the area.  If you were to select the most expensive gas line repair company you could find, your damages would be reduced accordingly.  You will need to file your lawsuit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.  Prior to filing your lawsuit, it may be possible to settle the case with the sewer company's insurance carrier.  If the case is settled, NO lawsuit is filed.  If the case is NOT settled, proceed with your lawsuit.


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