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Legal bills mount to $45K as city battles homeowner’s $11K insurance claim

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By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — City leaders on Tuesday will meet in closed session to confer with attorneys battling a lawsuit by a homeowner trying to collect on a $11,353.54 insurance claim.

According to City Attorney Anne Jacobson, the city has so far spent $45,015.56 defending the claim, a number that could rise significantly as the case heads to trial. The city has hired an outside attorney, Daniel Varline, of Vavczyk & Varline, LLC, to handle the case.

Brent Zocher says his 10th Avenue home, valued at about $77,900, was badly damaged after a storm sewer dumped more than two feet of water on his property during an August 2014 storm.

Zocher initially filed his claim with the city on Sept. 4, 2014, according to city documents, asking to be reimbursed for cleanup expenses. That claim was denied on Nov. 18, 2014. Now, Zocher is asking the city to pay for the full value of his home, plus court costs and other fees.

Zocher outlines the reasons for his claim in court filings, alleging that knee-deep standing water, a direct result of the city’s negligence, left him with a home that he is now unable to sell.

According to the complaint, the area surrounding Zocher’s home underwent multiple zoning changes and developments after the house was built in the 1940s. Zocher claims those changes ultimately caused his property to become part of the city’s storm water sewer system and created a watershed tributary that channels stormwater through Zocher’s land.

Zocher alleges the city was “well aware” of potential effects of zoning and development on the land prior to the September 2014 storm because stormwater had channeled twice before onto the property.

To date, members of the city council have met three times in closed session to discuss potential settlements with Zocher, in September 2015, December 2015, and in August 2016. So far, no agreement has been reached.
In April, Judge Jill Falstad denied the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and a five-day jury trial is set for August.

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