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City denial disappoints Omaha homeowners suffering from flood

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Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 10:26 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A severe storm last August still causes a flood of emotions for an Omaha family. Months after filing a damage claim they finally have an answer from the city.

The dining room table serves as his desk after a sewer backup last August forced Eric Larsen from his basement office.

“Pretty much all the furniture down there had to be tossed and in my office I had some books that got destroyed.”

The sewer backup at their home near 38th & Leavenworth affected the entire family.

“Our kids have nowhere to play at this point and it wiped out pretty much all their toys downstairs,” Eric’s spouse Jennifer Larsen said.

Eric’s in-laws who own the house suffered a much bigger loss in a sewage-soaked finished basement.

According to homeowner Charon Kupfer, the estimated repair cost is about $56,000. Charon filed a damage claim with the city last September.

The homeowners say they couldn’t wait on the city to decide liability so they spent $3,000 out of their own pocket to have the mold-covered drywall torn out.”

A recent letter says the city won’t be paying them back or paying forward on damage repairs.

The assistant city attorney for claims says an unusual 100-year rainfall event overwhelmed the combined storm and sewage sewer for the area. The denial states there’s no evidence that reveals any negligence by the city. The homeowners disagree.

”We’ve taken our part, like Charon said, to replace the piping from the house to the street,” homeowner Herb Kupfer said. “The problem is from their end with no backflow out there to stop that stuff from coming in.”

Across Omaha last year, 60 homeowners filed for sewer backup damage and the city paid four claims. Another 11 are pending and 42 have been denied. The Kupfers say theirs shouldn’t be one of them.

‘Especially since it’s coming from their area. It did not come from my house, it came from the city’s sewer system.”

After waiting six months for a decision on their claim, the homeowners say they’re no longer in the dark about what to do next and they are taking steps toward an appeal or lawsuit.

Not all sewer claims filed with the city take that long for a decision. So far this year 11 sewer claims have been filed and six denied. The other five are pending investigation. In Nebraska, after a claim is denied a homeowner can file suit or present the city attorney with new evidence they feel has been overlooked.

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