For 10 years before the city approved the developer’s plan to build three houses on the lots behind and above them, Grace and her family had lived in joyous isolation in their wonderful home overlooking the San Francisco Bay.  “Well, that’s a lot better than building a big house on the downhill in front of us. Our million-dollar view of the San Francisco Bay would never be the same if we had to stare over an ugly roof.  Anyway, it will be nice to have neighbors – “build away”, Grace said, accepting the inevitable.


"At first you could hardly notice the cracks in the patio concrete..."


Grace and her family tolerated the noise and disruption and the three houses were finished in no time at all.  The houses sold immediately.  Grace and her family welcomed their new neighbors and, their broad vistas undisturbed, really felt no change at all in the enjoyment of their home other than that they could share the spectacular setting with their new friends.

At first you could hardly notice the cracks in the patio concrete – just thin white lines like varicose veins running through the flat pink slab.  Grace wasn’t sure that the bathroom door hadn’t been sticking a bit for a long time. But she knew that she had never had a problem opening the sliding glass door from the master bedroom to the little garden patio where she enjoyed taking a first cup of coffee in the morning.  No, that door always worked fine, she thought.  It glided open – just a touch and a light push.  That’s all it took every morning for 10 years.


"But Penny said there was no insurance for acts of nature."


The structural engineer found the cracks in the foundations.  The cracks were new, he could tell, and there were no old cracks. Grace’s house had recently started to move – glacially, but ever forward.  “Well, yes, we can anchor the house in bedrock and impede the movement and we can make that glass door slide easily again - for a time.  But … .”

This was getting expensive so Grace called Penny Premium, her ever up beat insurance agent.  But Penny said that there is no insurance for acts of nature.  Grace’s homeowner’s insurance could offer no help at all with the ten thousand dollars estimated for further studies and the who knows how much for engineering solutions to stabilize the house.  As a real estate agent, Grace knew that there was nearly a total loss of market value for the house since almost no one would buy a house that was moving down the hill.  “No insurance for that either”, advised Penny Premium.

Grace’s case is a fictionalization of actual cases done by Ed McGill. Uphill building can change the courses of subterranean and surface waters.  Moving water moves other things, like Grace’s house.  When the new houses were built, the developer and the city changed the courses of subterranean and surface waters flowing down onto Grace’s property.  Instead of directing waters safely around Grace’s house, they misdirected and concentrated waters on and under the surface right into Grace’s house’s foundations.


"You can win a case such as this and protect your home and family with solid legal counsel."


The city changed watercourses when it built surface water drainage for the road to the new houses and was liable to Grace under the theory of inverse condemnation.  Besides compensation, the city was responsible for paying Grace’s attorney’s fees.  Of course, the developer and the uphill owners were liable too.  Their insurers had to pay Grace compensation as well.  In situations like Grace’s, they must reroute the watercourses so that the damages cease. Finally, Grace’s insurer was liable to her for its “bad faith” denial of her claim.

The law will punish insurers that abandon their insureds.  The insurance company can be made to pay compensation, attorney’s fees, emotional distress damages and punitive damages.  When the contributions of all those liable were calculated, in a similar case, Ed obtained compensation for his client in an amount, after his fees were paid, that exceeded the actual market value of the house and the owner kept the house with the land movement stabilized.  In the end, there was far more than enough money in damages for all of the repairs and changes with plenty of money in addition for all of the trouble. You can win a case such as this and protect your home and family with solid legal counsel.

Content prepared by Edmond McGill

Copyright 2015 Edmond McGill


This message and the information presented here do not create or evidence an attorney-client relationship nor are they intended to convey legal advice or counsel.  You should not act upon this information without seeking advice from a qualified lawyer licensed in your own state or country who actually represents you. In this regard, you may contact The McGill Law Office and then representation and advice may be given if, and only if, attorney Edmond McGill agrees to do so in a written contract signed by him.