Scaling Back Relief for Flooded Property

The Governmental Immunity Act grants governmental agencies broad immunity for tort liability. The Act contains an exception for liability arising from overflows or backups from sewage disposal systems however. The “sewage disposal event exception” to governmental immunity is the sole remedy for obtaining damages resulting from overflows or backups of sewage regardless of the legal theory. More often than not, this exception is invoked after one’s basement floods. The Michigan House of Representatives is considering House Bill 4290, which would expand governmental immunity for flooding claims.

There currently is no limitation on the amount of rain that must fall to invoke the sewage disposal event exception. House Bill 4290 would change that. It would impose a precipitation threshold on recovery. If enacted, House Bill 4290 would limit recovery for flooding damages to weather events where: 1) 1.7 inches or more of precipitation falls with one hour or 2) 3.3 or more inches of precipitation falls within a continuous 24-hour period. If it rains an inch and the creek begins to flow through your basement, you’re out of luck regardless of whether you have a paddle or not.

House Bill 4290 is intended to protect municipalities from paying damages for an increasing frequency of deluges. Not surprising, the bill has enthusiastic support from municipalities. However, if a person’s basement floods every time it rains, why punish an innocent homeowner who has no control over the situation. In those instances, extending immunity isn’t going to provide any incentive to fix the problem.