Naperville among public bodies named in insurer’s flood suits

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

Farmers Insurance Co. is balking on paying out additional claims to local governmental agencies stemming from last spring’s flooding, asserting that the damages it has settled could have been easily avoided. The company filed suit April 17 against nine northeastern Illinois counties and many of the towns within them, including Naperville.

The city, DuPage County and 28 other municipalities are named in one of the class action suits filed at the county level on the one-year anniversary of flooding that affected about 9,000 DuPage properties and led to $15 million in federal flood relief payments to county residents and business owners. Naperville, which straddles two counties, also is included in a separate complaint that names Will County and a dozen municipalities.

The filings assert that Farmers is not responsible for the widespread flood damage because the damage could have been avoided, according to company spokesman Trent Frager.

“Farmers has taken what we believe is the necessary action to recover payments made on behalf of our customers, for damages caused by what we believe to be a completely preventable issue, as well as to prevent it from happening again,” said a statement Frager issued earlier this week.

He declined to specify the sums being sought in the complaints.

Stuart Brody, partner in the Chicago law firm Sneckenberg Thompson & Brody LLC, is arguing the case for Farmers. He said it involves losses the company already has covered, and that flood damage sustained by private property owners will be considered separately in the courts.

He took a pass on the question of what steps could have been taken by the defendants to prevent the flood damage.

“I’ll let the people testifying in court, any experts who may or may not take part in the litigation, answer that,” he said.

Local defendants did not yet have responses to the suit. Naperville spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said neither the city’s legal department nor its clerk had been served notice of the suit as of midweek. DuPage County hadn’t received official word either.

“We have not yet been served and we’re aware of the suit by Farmers,” said Paul Darrah, spokesman for State’s Attorney Bob Berlin. “Because of that, we’ll be withholding comment at this time.”

Anastasia Tuskey, spokeswoman for Will County Executive Larry Walsh, also said their office had not seen the suit, and “on the advice of legal counsel will not comment on pending litigation.”

Sun-Times Media contributed.