Renters seek damages in 2013 sewage backup

Six days before the two-year statute of limitations took effect, a Homer lawyer filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against the city of Homer on behalf of two families affected by a Jan. 13, 2013, sewage backup.

In his complaint Michael Hough seeks damages of at least $100,000 for each family for loss of property, expenses and injuries. Two families filed claims, Chip Duggan and his daughter, who lived at 1293 Iris Court, and Dennis and Rena Haunschild and their children, who lived at 4452 Early Spring Court. 

Both families rented the homes. The sewage backup also affected a third family and homeowner, but they are not named in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim the city of Homer negligently maintained a wastewater system, and that sewage backed up into the two homes, contaminating property. The Duggans moved out that night, but the Haunschilds returned to their home after attempting to clean up the mess. The Haunschilds claim mold and fungi formed in the house. Some family members later developed respiratory problems and other health issues, the lawsuit claims.

Initially, the city offered $3,500 to the families, but the city’s insurer, the Alaska Municipal League Joint Insurance Association, balked at paying more, saying it was “an act of God.” 

Last June, the city settled with two home-
owners, Steve Bambakidis, for $45,000, and Ken Halpin, for $250,000. Halpin owns the Early Spring Street home. Hough represented Halpin in that settlement. 

The city and Hough both said then they were happy with the property owners’ settlement. Hough said the facts of the renters and homeowners cases are similar and will be argued on the same premise.

Interim City Manager Marvin Yoder said the city is aware of the lawsuit. He said the city has been in contact with its attorney handling the case, but that he otherwise had no comment. 

In an executive session held Monday at the Homer City Council meeting, Yoder said he would inform the council and Mayor Beth Wythe of the Haunschild et al. case as well as other legal matters.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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