Sewage Hits the Fan in Messy Court Case
An owner sued an association for breach of contract and negligence after its tenant moved out because its unit was flooded with raw human sewage.
What happened? The owner in the case leased its building to retailer Pier 1; the lease was set to expire in February 2016, but Pier 1 had the option to extend. On Feb. 14, 2015, a sewer lift station that collected toilet and sink runoff from the association’s buildings failed and flooded the unit with sewage. Pier 1 subsequently terminated its lease, prompting the owner to file the lawsuit against the association.
The declaration required the association to pay “all maintenance costs” in connection with improvements, with the costs allocated to the owners. Maintenance costs were defined to include “the cost of all upkeep, maintenance, repair, replacement … and any other expense reasonably necessary or prudent for the continuous operation of such facilities.”
The bylaws required the board of directors to provide for the “ownership, operation, maintenance, upkeep, repair, replacement, administration, and preservation of the roads, drainage ditches, utility strips and sewers, including a sanitary lift station.”
The trial court ruled against the owner on the negligence claim but for it on the breach of contract claim. The association appealed.
Learn how the court reached this seemingly contradictory conclusion — and how similar reasoning could affect your clients if they aren’t careful:
‘Continuous Operation’ Language Declaration Requires Association to Keep Lift Working