Princes Town homeowners Darwin Sahadath and his wife are to receive $2.2 million in compensation from the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) for their four-storey “dream home” at Nagee Avenue, Iere Village Branch Road.
The Sahadaths took legal action against WASA after their house dropped ten feet below road level and shifted 20 feet from where it was built because of a WASA pipeline which began leaking in 2012.
The pipeline was eventually repaired and WASA relocated its main and pipelines above the ground.
In late 2014, engineers determined that the house was unfit for occupancy and was at the risk of further movement and imminent collapse. The couple and their children had to move out and rent.
An emotional Kamalar Sahadath said after the ruling they were relieved. The couple plans to use the compensation to build somewhere else.
In a written 34-page decision delivered yesterday, Justice Vasheist Kokaram said he was satisfied by the couple’s evidence – which included reports by geotechnical and engineering experts – that the land slippage at the Sahadaths’ home was triggered by the leaking pipeline.
He also said there was no evidence from the authority to suggest the land slippage and damage to the house were caused by another source or heavy rainfall.
The judge also added that it was “reasonably foreseeable” that the leak from the WASA line, if not repaired within a reasonable time, would damage the road and make the subsoil vulnerable.
According to an expert’s report, the soil in the area around the couple’s house and the WASA pipeline was Talparo clay, which was prone to swelling when exposed to water.
Kokaram also found “clearly WASA was either unresponsive or unreasonably slow” to respond to the Sahadaths’ complaints.
“As a monopoly service provider of water, they owe a duty to repair the leak in a timely manner. One would expect that they would respond to the complaint of the leak within one day of the complaint being made,” the judge said.
It was WASA’s defence that the source of the leak was not from its pipeline. It also contended that the authority was not responsible for the loss, as the couple built their home on land prone to slippage.
The judge was also critical of WASA’s defence, pointing out that the authority “starved” the court of any expert evidence, since as the country’s sole water provider, the authority had expertise on laying pipelines and repairing them.
As ordered by the judge, the Sahadaths will receive $2, 200,000 to reconstruct their home.
They will also be compensated for the cost of the valuation report and the geoengineering reports at $41,412.50 and the $165,000 in rent they paid when they moved out of their home. The rent also covers up to January. The judge has also ordered that WASA pay interest on the total $2,208,412.50 at a rate of 1.5 per cent from March 2015 to yesterday’s date and legal costs of $164,210.31.
A 30-day stay of execution has been granted.
The couple were represented by attorneys Larry Lalla and Vikash Indar Lal and WASA was represented by Keston McQuilkin and Roshini Balkaran.
Last month, WASA was also ordered to compensate another Princes Town family who also lost their home to a burst water main. The authority was ordered to pay Ayub Hosein, 59, his wife and two sons, who also abandoned their home and rented an apartment, $1.1 million in compensation.