Lija local council, a contractor and an architect have been ordered to pay €18,485.97 in damages to the insurer of a resident whose home was extensively damaged on account of faulty roadworks.
The case dates back to September 2012 when Malta was hit by a heavy rainstorm that caused flooding in the San Anton Gardens area where the woman’s home was located.
The court heard that road resurfacing works were undertaken by Polidano Brothers Limited for Lija local council under supervision of the council’s architect, John Rizzo Naudi. Street levels had allegedly been altered and water culverts not fully replaced.
In the early hours of the morning on September 3, Annalise Cilia, who lived at the lower end of an alley on St Anthony Street found water seeping through the front door and within a short while, the water level rose, causing an electric short circuit. Soon, the entire ground floor of the residence was flooded under almost a metre of rainwater mixed with sewage, resulting in damage to walls, furniture, appliances, books and other personal items.
At one point, the water at the front door was one metre high, the woman recalled when testifying in court.
The Civil Protection Department was called for assistance. Later that day, a second downpour caused further flooding.
The following day the woman filed a police report and immediately lodged a claim with her insurers.
She also complained to the Lija Local Council that promised to investigate the matter, subsequently placing sand bags at the entrance to the alley to divert water and thus avert future flooding.
Meanwhile, an insurance surveyor was sent to inspect the property, drawing up a report on the nature and extent of the extensive damages suffered.
The claim was eventually cleared and the insurance company, Lloyd’s Malta Limited, forked out €17,161 to their client and paid €1,324.97 by way of survey fees, after attributing the damages to faulty roadworks.
The insurers subsequently filed civil proceedings against Lija local council, Polidano Brothers Limited and architect Rizzo Naudi, stepping into the rights of the insured party.
During the proceedings, the council’s architect said that there had been no negligence, that the works had been done according to the highest standards and terms of the contract and that what had happened was an ‘act of God.’
The contractor also raised a number of pleas, including that the flooding was not due to any negligence in the works but because of force majeure, given that the rainfall had far exceeded normal levels.
Indeed, a representative from the Met Office also testified, confirming that the Bkara station had registered 124.2mm of rain over a 24-hour period on the night of the flooding.
Council authorities, the foreman of the works and a number of residents who lived in neighbouring properties were also called to testify. The evidence put forward did not prove any alteration of the street levels, said the court. But it clearly showed that the heavy volume of water flooding the alley had been brought about by the removal of culverts during the works and the fact that they had not been fully replaced.
Indeed, the problem had been sensed months before the incident, as soon as the roadworks had been completed, observed the court, presided over by Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff.
There was no doubt that the damage suffered by the resident were a “direct result” of those works by the contractor who had failed to take “necessary precautions.”
The court aslo observed that there had clearly been a lack of communication between architects. Someone among the respondents had clearly failed to employ “prudence, diligence and care when commissioning and executing the works,” said the court.
The incident was “foreseeable” and could thus have been avoided, concluded the court, upholding the applicant’s claims, declaring all respondents jointly responsible and ordering them to pay €18,485.97 in damages.
Lawyers Timothy Bartolo, Chris Cilia and Carmel Cascun appeared for the plaintiffs.
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