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Liability for water leaks/ loss following winterization?

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by Venturewest, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Venturewest

    Venturewest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 516

    I have a scenario that I would like to get some opinions on:

    If an landscape/ irrigation contractor winterizes a large irrigation system, but the next fall there are multiple breaks could said contractor be liable?

    This obviously is a real world scenario, the largest leak was a 3" mainline, blown up for about 110'.

    The irrigation system obviously was not winterized properly if at all. Can the contractor who was paid to winterize the system be held liable? Would his insurance pay for the damages? In this case it was a water bill of several thousand dollars and the repairs to the system by another contractor.

  2. Venturewest

    Venturewest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 516

    I meant to say that early next spring, when the system was turned back on, there were multiple leaks including the big mainline.
  3. 1idejim

    1idejim LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,315

    If one acts as a general in CA., they are the responsible party.

    They go after the sub.

    Somebody better have 3 or so years worth of system useage documentation to prove the system was sound prior to the blow out.
  4. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,546

    One small problem in fixing blame is establishing that there was no possibility whatsoever for additional water to have entered the system after the winterizing was performed. Very few systems are configured so as to make a leaking supply valve, or even a careless or malicious opening of the supply valve, not become a source of costly damage.
  5. Irrigation Contractor

    Irrigation Contractor LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 423

    This does bring up a question that we have been going back and forth on for awhile.

    Part of our winterization service is to completely "break down" the backflow. Since we never blow compressed air through the device; we drain it by pulling out all of the checks, diaphragm plate etc. We leave all of the test-cocks and ball valves cracked half open and only hand tightened the parts mentioned earlier.

    We have always done over the years so if the main shutoff for the water source were ever to leak or get cracked open the water will leak from the openings and not make it into the main. If water does get past the main valve it is much easier to see water coming from the openings.

    How do you guys approach the backflows during shut-downs? Do you leave them broken down or completely tighten everything back up? We have 5-10 shut-offs fail each year whether it is the meter or irrigation valves. This method done well for 15 years......I guess I am just curious how others approach it.

    As far as the OP, we warranty our blowouts so if the scenario ever happened to us and it was our fault we would cover it. We never have had issues like you mentioned besides the leaking ball valves. We did have several over the years where my guys failed to completely close the valve, but the damages were minimal because in each case water was found leaking at the RP.
  6. AI Inc

    AI Inc LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 26,982

    We plumb a drawoff just below the BF outside. Leave that open and ballvalves at 45 degree angle.
  7. Venturewest

    Venturewest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 516

    Thanks for the great information, everyone who posted. I hadn't considered the possibility of water entering the system after winterization. I guess the water bills may show any usage if this is the case. It also seems like a great service protocol for the BF to be disassembled and stored for winter.

    Is general liability the one who would pay for the water loss if negligence was found on the part of the contractor?

    Thanks again.
  8. irritation

    irritation LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,590

    If there was 110' of shattered 3" mainline, it was not blown out properly or at all. Frozen pipe is easily identified. If the main valve was seeping thru it shouldn't get past a properly functioning backflow preventer. I doubt you can hold the contractor liable unless he turns the system back on in the spring and admits it was his mistake.
  9. 1idejim

    1idejim LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,315

    You are prolly right :)
  10. irritation

    irritation LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,590

    Water can also enter through a broken pipe or head or someone turning on main valve after blow out. You would have a lot to prove it was the contractors fault.

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