Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Not Another Leaky Basement Case!"

Growing up in the shadows of the Menomonee River in a home that was built before World War II, I learned from an early age that a leaky basement is a very bad thing.  When our basement leaked, our tile flooring peeled up, our furniture was destroyed, and my dad's collection of books and classic rock albums were trashed. Our basement turned from a family room into a place that my family avoided like the plague.  Years later, I graduated from law school and found myself working for the "King of Leaky Basement Cases." Nothing wrong with that, right?

I quickly learned, however, that many lawyers and even some members of the judiciary are offended by "leaky basement cases."  Why is that?  The best explanation is that some people believe that a leaky basement is a petty annoyance and that no one should be dragged into court over such a minor issue.

To homeowners, a leaky basement is hardly a petty annoyance. Water intrusion into a basement from the outside destroys everything in its path.  It saturates wood, drywall, and carpeting.  It wrecks exercise equipment, musical instruments, toys, stereos, speakers, and TVs.  It ruins wedding dresses and photo albums.  A leaky basement prevents homeowners from using an area where they should be able to relax, entertain, and play.  Ask a child who can't play in the basement on a rainy day whether a leaky basement is a petty annoyance!  Ask a man who has been deprived of his "man cave" whether a leaky basement is a petty annoyance!

Additionally, leaky basements have to be repaired.  Some homeowners fix the problem by building up the grade around their home or rerouting their gutters and downspouts.  Others aren't so lucky.  Some have to replace hampered drain tile.  Some have to excavate their foundation and waterproof it from the outside. Some actually have to raise their entire foundation above the water table.  Foundation repairs can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000!

If you're telling an attorney about your leaky basement, it must be more than a petty annoyance.  You need to help your attorney develop a compelling story to tell the jury.  How did you like waking up in the middle of the night to squeegee your basement floor?  What was it like to haul furniture and saturated carpeting up the stairs?  Do you miss hosting Packer parties in your basement?  Do your kids miss building forts or playing air hockey?  How many sick days did you have to spend obtaining opinions from engineers and estimates from contractors?  When will you finally take that trip to Cancun that you delayed so that you could repair your basement.  Every leaky basement case has a compelling story behind it, and we will help you develop yours so that no one will say "not another leaky basement case!"

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