The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has voted not to appeal the decision of a Prince George's County Circuit Court jury to award an Oxon Hill family $15,000 for damages their home sustained when a malfunctioning WSSC sewer pipe spewed six inches of raw sewage into their home.
Attorneys representing the WSSC in the case had appealed the Sept. 29 ruling to the Maryland Court of Appeals, but the agency's commissioners Wednesday voted unanimously to rescind that decision, WSSC chairman Johanna Norris said.
Norris and WSSC attorneys said the decision was made because of the expense involved in appealing the case and because of the possibility that, if the appeal was lost, it might set a precedent that would adversely affect the WSSC in similar suits.
To successfully sue the agency for damage to their house, home owners must prove that the WSSC was aware of the problem which caused the damage and failed to correct it.
Attorneys for Robert and Sandra Boyer of 8912 Branchview Drive, Oxon Hill convinced the Prince George's County jury that the water and sewer agency had been negligent in preventing the sewer backup.
The damage to the Boyer home occurred Dec. 1, 1974, the day of a heavy snow and sleet storm. Returning home from visiting friends that evening, the Boyers discovered the ground floor of their $73,000, two-month-old home covered with six inches of raw sewage.
The sewage which was gushing from the ground floor toilet, sink and shower drain continued to do so for three more hours, the Boyers testified in court, ruining parts of the home and many of their family's possessions.
The WSSC denied it was responsible for the sewer backup, maintaining in court that the problem had been caused during the building of the new development and should have been the responsibility of the developer.
Robert Boyer, commenting on the commissioner's decision, said that he and his wife were "relieved to get the nightmare over with, but disappointed that it had to go two years before it got resolved."
Norris said the commission decision was also based on the "human element here we have to take into consideration," but said the decision did not represent any change in the agency's general policy.
Last month the WSSC, while not admitting any legal obligation to pay for extensive damage to two Montgomery County homes that resulted when WSSC water mains cracked, nevertheless decided to help pay for repairs. Agency officials cited as reasons for the decision unusual circumstances in the incidents.