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Denver Water not legally responsible for pipe burst that damaged 50 properties

The utility company will, however, pay residents for damages incurred and the work needed to restore homes.

DENVER — It took around three hours for crews to turn more than 30 different valves before they were able to shut off the water spewing out of a burst pipe in the Berkeley neighborhood this weekend. The water that flooded the area impacted 50 properties.

As the cleanup continues, the focus shifts to who is responsible for the damages.

The people who live in the area obviously aren’t to blame for the pipe that burst. But Denver Water says the law states it doesn’t have to take responsibility for the damages either.

The utility company cites the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act. In this case, it allows the company to write on their website, “Denver Water is not responsible for damages resulting from a water main break.”

9NEWS Legal Analyst Whitney Traylor said that’s the same act that stops things like emergency responders being responsible for damage from a crash.

"The starting place is the government is immune from lawsuits," Traylor said, explaining how the Governmental Immunity Act works. "They won’t be liable for injuries. That’s the starting place."

Traylor said homeowners could likely still sue for damages.

"If everybody could sue for every possible situation, it would be exorbitant," Traylor said. "The government wouldn’t be able to operate. Taxpayers would be paying for all of that."

Denver Water doesn’t have to take responsibility, but said it will still pay for the damages the pipe caused.

RELATED: Homeowners begin cleanup after water main break floods backyards and basements

The utility is giving homeowners a restoration company to work with. If they use that company, the utility said it will pay the bill directly. If homeowners use a different company, they can be reimbursed, up to the amount Denver Water’s contractor says is a fair estimate.

Denver Water said it will also pay up to $8,000 to cover uninsured property that was damaged and up to $1,000 for cars that were damaged.

More information about Denver Water's assistance program is available here. 

Something that won’t help in this situation is homeowners insurance.

"Typically when you have a main water line break, it’s a city pipe," said Carole Walker, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association. "That’s not something that’s going to be covered by your homeowners insurance because it’s off your property line."

If a pipe were to burst inside your home, homeowners insurance would step in. Because the break happened on public property, private insurance likely won’t help.

"Unfortunately this is not something that is going to be covered in this situation under most homeowners’ insurances," Walker said. 

Denver Water said there are more than 80,000 different valves in the water system throughout the city. It took crews a while to identify which valves turned the water off, which is why it took so much time to get the water to stop coming out of the burst pipe.    


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