A Bellevue family who lost their home when it was pushed off its foundation during a January landslide filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Bellevue for unspecified monetary damages.
The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges the city was negligent when officials failed to warn the Surdi family about aging water pipes or mitigate the risk of the pipes failing.
Owner John Surdi said he awoke the morning of Jan. 17 after a neighbor called and informed him about water gushing down his driveway. Surdi said he drove to the parking lot of the private school behind his property, when moments later, his home of over 20 years slid off its foundation and partially collapsed with his wife and dog in it.
The event forced 40 people in the area to evacuate.
The Surdi family has argued that the city was to blame because an 8-inch-diameter section of the water main that ran behind and above their home broke, causing the landslide.
The water pipe was made out of asbestos cement, which is “more likely to fail catastrophically than iron pipes,” according to Bellevue’s planning documents.
The family filed a $5 million claim against the city March 9. Previously, the city said it was possible a natural landslide might have caused the pipe to break, destabilizing the ground.
The city has not yet responded to the claim, spokesperson Brad Harwood said Wednesday.
“The slide was a complex incident, and it will take more than a couple of months to determine the cause and any potential liability,” he said in a statement.
Harwood said the pipe that broke was not installed by the city but by the owner of the hillside in the early 1970s. It had no prior history of reported leaks or breakage, he said.
An initial investigation found there has been no catastrophic break of the pipe, according to Harwood, who said the investigation is ongoing.
Asbestos cement was a popular building material in North America between 1940 and 1980, and makes up about 10% to 20% of water mains in the U.S., according to estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency and industry groups. In Bellevue, asbestos cement makes up 40% of the city’s water system.