Tennessee Water Main Break Prompts Class Action Lawsuit

Oct. 3, 2019

A water main break in Chattanooga leaves Tennessee American Water struggling to catch a break as locals file a class action lawsuit.

Locals have filed a class-action lawsuit against Tennessee American Water (TAWC) after a massive water main break in Chattanooga that left thousands without water.  

"There are old pipes and I think it might be that they didn't even do a proper inventory for themselves. They definitely didn't do the maintenance required to prevent an event like this, and that negligence is how this happened" said Ron Littlefield, former mayor of Chattanooga. According to Littlefield, TAWC is notoriously difficult to work with, as it previously refused a plan to establish redundancies with other local utilities and failed to provide information to the city for any other planning. 

The 36-in. water main break occurred approximately 20 ft from where crews were working on a maintenance project on one of the city’s largest water mains. TAWCs alert to the public urged Chattanoogans to boil water for consumption and to practice conservation efforts until the issue was resolved. 

“All I can say for sure is there was no obvious cause to the incident," said Kevin Kruchinski, TAWC engineer.  

Amid the water shortage, the city responded by providing residents with nearly 1 million bottles of water. There was an inevitable sense of urgency to offer the city’s most vulnerable residents, including those in jails and hospitals, immediate support. One hospital, Erlanger North Hospital in Red Bank, was without water and had to put emergency procedures in place. Government facilities and schools were among some of the other establishments that closed during this time. The potential for local businesses such as restaurants to lose customer confidence is also a consequence of this water main break.

Locals are taking matters into their own hands by filing a class action lawsuit. Parkway Pourhouse, a local restaurant affected by the water main break, is part of the lawsuit alongside Attorney Lee Davis and Van Bunch. 

“They owe their customers a candid and transparent explanation of what happened,” Davis said. 

The lawsuit requests compensation of wage losses or business losses as a result of the incident. It also asks for the company to pay court or attorney fees and does not formally require locals affected to formally join the suit to receive compensation. 

The lawsuit raises questions of how much money the Chattanooga water main break is costing taxpayers. Emergency management has disclosed that it is in the process of tracking the cost of supplies and wage losses, among other expenditures. TWAC was asked if it plans to take the case to court but it declined to comment because it is an open case.

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Cristina Tuser