ERLANGER, Ky. — A retired couple claims a Northern Kentucky water main break trashed their car and stuck them with a nearly $6,000 repair bill, which they feel is unfair.
However, the couple may have to prove negligence contributed to the damage in order to hold the Northern Kentucky Water District (NKWD) legally responsible.
What cracked both windshields, dented, then flooded Jack Duncan’s 2021 Toyota Camry came from a hold so deep under an Erlanger street that he cannot believe what surfaced.
“You don’t want me to say (what I feel),” he said. “I’ll clean it up: mad. (I’m) very mad, very hostile about it.”
Duncan is an 80-year-old retired Air Force veteran and proud grandpa with 27 great-grandchildren. He heard water hit his roof in the middle of the night three weeks before Christmas.
Outside his home, Duncan saw crews for NKWD. They told him a water main in his cul-de-sac’s median had broken, Duncan said.
“(The foreman) said, ‘By the way, have you looked at your car?'” Duncan recalled. “I said, ‘No. Should I?’ He said, ‘I think you better.'”
The damage cost nearly $6,000 to repair, which Duncan’s insurance company covered after he paid a $500 deductible. Worse is the response he did not get from his water district.
“All I’m asking for is advice telling me what to do (and) how to do it,” he said. “But they’re not telling me anything. Ignoring my telephone calls. I’ve had more calls from Jesus Christ than I have from the water company, and I’ve never had one from Jesus Christ. I’ve never had one from the water company. I want reimbursed for the money that I had to spend, my wife and I had to spend, to get it fixed. Their insurance company is telling me tough luck.”
Northern Kentucky University law professor Ken Katkin said state law leaves consumers like Duncan few options.
“It’s possible that the water district has liability, but only if they did something negligent,” Katkin said. “If they had been given actual notice that there was a problem out in the area where the pipe ultimately burst and they didn’t do anything about it after they’d been told they need to do something, that could be actual negligence. Or if they had workmen out in the area recently and the workmen did something that actually caused the break, that could be actual negligence. If it’s just worn out over time, that’s probably not going to rise to the level of actual negligence, and then the city is probably not going to be liable.”
With offices closed for the Christmas holiday Monday, no one from the NKWD returned our calls. So, it is not clear where Duncan goes from here.
Still, he minced no words about what he hopes happens next.
“Right is right and wrong is wrong,” Duncan said. “They should pay the whole bill on the car, not me or my wife.”