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The Poughkeepsie Journal Turns to Attorney Michael R. Varble for Municipal Liability Story

Can a municipality be held responsible for damage its crumbling infrastructure causes its citizens? That's the question at the heart of the case of Mirian Boncardo, whose Fishkill home was flooded with raw sewage due to a pipe the town claims was "vandalized." The Poughkeepsie Journal turned to Michael R. Varble, Esq. for legal insight on the matter.

Last week, the Boncardo family returned home to their Riverview Drive property to discover that the basement had been flooded with sewage. Responding to the flooding, town workers found that a shovel had blocked a pipe and diverted sewage into the Boncardo home. Mirian, 50, and her family are currently in the middle of a massive clean-up that, all said and done, could cost tens of thousands of dollars—only a fraction of which has been covered by her homeowner's insurance.

Can the Boncardo's sue to the Town of Fishkill for the remaining money? According to Attorney Varble, probably not. A municipality's liability in New York can be proven if the town received "prior, written notification of a problem and fails to take action." Incident reports reveal that Camo Pollution Control Inc., the town's sewage operator, responded promptly to the Boncardo's initial flood report.

"Vandalized" Sewer Pipe

There is, however, the matter of the pipe blockage, which was determined to be a shovel. The Town of Fishkill has determined that the placement of the shovel was an act of vandalism. Attorney Varble detailed the alternative for the paper: "If town employees were working there and caused the condition to happen, you don’t need to have the prior written notice [to file suit]," he told reporters.

In the meantime, the Boncardo's are largely displaced from their own home, accepting help from neighbors, and waiting for a final cost of the clean-up to be determined. As for Miriam Boncardo's position on Fishkill's involvement, she told the paper that the town "walked out and left me with a mess."

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