Insurance company seeking nearly $45K from city of Mitchell for 2019 sewage damages

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An insurance company representing a local couple is taking legal action against the city of Mitchell for the damages that occurred to the couple’s home during a pair of severe rain events in 2019.

According to court documents, the plaintiff in the matter is an insurance company, State Farm Fire and Casualty, that insures the home of Justin and Megan Luther, of Mitchell. The complaint states that on March 13, 2019, during a severe rainstorm, the Luthers found raw sewage flowing out of the toilet inside of their 111 S. Harmon Dr. home along Lake Mitchell, which caused interior damages to their home.

Megan Luther on Thursday offered the following comment on the lawsuit, "We are not suing the city. Unbeknownst to us, the insurance company filed on its behalf. We learned of it when the Mitchell Republic contacted us."

The Luthers again had a similar experience with raw sewage flowing out of their toilet on Sept. 9, 2020, causing more damage to their home.

In total, the sewage overflow caused $44,865 worth of damages to the Luther residence, according to the complaint. Of the total cost in damages that were incurred from both incidents, the insurance company paid $40,517.11 for the repairs. The costs to repair the damages that the Luthers’ home experienced in March amounted to $33,004.14, while the September damages came out to $11,860.97.


Therefore, the Luthers' insurance company is requesting a judgment against the city of Mitchell — the defendant in the matter — to cover the total costs of damages in the amount of $44,865.11.

Upon noticing the raw sewage backing up out of the toilets and onto the Luthers' basement floor, a family member of the Luthers notified the city of Mitchell. The complaint alleges a city official informed the Luthers that one of the city’s lift stations servicing the lake area had failed, causing the sewage overflow inside the Luther residence.

Due to the reported complications with the lift station, the Luthers' insurance company is alleging the city “was negligent” and failed to properly operate or maintain the lift station during the severe weather event.

When the March 13, 2019, sewage issue occurred inside the Luther residence, Mitchell was drenched in water from a severe storm that brought a mixture of rain and snow, which led to road closures and travel advisories. According to the National Weather Service, Mitchell received over 2.16 inches of rainfall on March 13, 2019. However, the second incident on Sept. 9, 2019, Mitchell received less than an inch of rainfall. According to the National Weather Service, Mitchell received just under half of an inch of rain.

During the evening hours on March, 12, 2019 — which is when the Mitchell area began receiving heavy mixtures of rain and snow — the city of Mitchell’s utility department asked residents to restrict water usage in homes near the Lake Mitchell area. At the time of the storm, Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said the lift stations that service the lake residents were exhausted while trying to drain the heavy rainfall and snowmelt.

With the complaint that was recently filed, the plaintiff is demanding a jury trial to settle the matter between the city of Mitchell and the insurance company.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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