Property owners can recover from public entities damages caused by broken water mains. Private property owner’s whose property is damaged when a water main that is severely weakened by corrosive breaks are entitled to recover damages from the public entity. The property owner’s right to recover for damages caused by a broken water main is based on inverse condemnation by the public entity. This is the remedy when an injury to private property is caused by a deliberate act by the public entity.
Damage resulting from a maintenance program that involves a deliberate act supports an inverse condemnation claim. The Public Entity’s knowledge of the limited life of water mains and failure to adequately guard against breaks caused by corrosion is considered a deliberate act.
Public entity’s policy decision is to shift the risk of losses caused by broken water mains to private property owners rather than to incur additional costs for inspection and repairs of old water mains. Public Entities that wait until water mains break before replacing is a risk that requires the public entity to be responsible when damages occur.
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