ISR flood victims’ damage claims stay in limbo


Adam Babcock

University alumna Sonali Bhatnagar, right, and and her roommate Alice Pihuleac, senior in Business, found bags of their clothes on their beds upon returning from spring break on March 25. Bhatnagar and Pihuleac were among dozens of Wardall residents acros Steve Contorno

By Brittney Foreman

Victims of the ISR flood are still awaiting compensation for their damaged clothes, books, purses and other valuables. The flood took place during spring break when a leaky pipe burst in a building service worker’s closet on the seventh floor, damaging items on the floors below.

“I don’t know why it’s taking so long for them to fill out the claims report,” said Samiyah Nageeb, junior in LAS. “I think what they should do is at least update us on what’s going on.”

Stanley Apperson, assistant director of housing for business and technology services, said Wednesday he had not sent the claims to the University claims office at that time.

Andi Cailles, assistant director for hall supervision and staffing, said she doesn’t think the University will end up reimbursing the affected residents.

“Most likely they will find that the University of Illinois was not negligent in any way,” Cailles said.

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According to the damage claim information packet, a “resident shall not claim damages from University … in the event the premises or property are damaged or destroyed by fire, flood or any other causes not under University’s control.”

Cailles said the pipe burst resulted from the age of ISR, which was built in 1964. She said no one had any way of knowing the pipe was leaking because of the insulation surrounding it.

Cailles said, though, if the University refuses to compensate the flood victims, it is likely Housing will do it.

“It seems like the right thing to do even though the University was not negligent in any way,” she said.

Cailles said that while they want to do the right thing it is also important that they follow policy.

As far as how staff handled rooms at the time of the flood, some residents feel they were careless with their things.

Lauren Kroll, junior in LAS, said when she returned to her room after break, clothes in her closet were still wet, the inside of her computer case was wet and the food in the refrigerator was spoiled and smelled because it had been left unplugged.

Her computer, which was inside the case, is working fine right now but all her manuals and backup CDs were ruined. She said they threw everything else on top of her bed.

“I just thought it was a little strange that all my containers were on top of my bed but my computer was tossed under my bed,” Kroll said. Kroll said that the e-mails explaining the incident were misleading.

“They said that they had handled everything and when we came back it was mass chaos,” she said.

Kroll said she claimed about $450 in damages.

Samiyah Nageeb, junior in LAS, said the situation was upsetting for her.

“My grandpa had just passed in December (and) I had this yellow shirt of his,” Nageeb said.

She said the shirt had gotten moldy and even though she tried washing it twice she ended up having to turn it over to Housing.

“I was so mad,” she said.

Nageeb said they could’ve handled the situation better but it wasn’t their fault the pipe burst.

“You can’t really be bitter (or) angry with them because this wasn’t a situation that they could foresee,” Nageeb said. “On the spot they did the best they could.”

Cailles said that going into every room and going through residents’ wet things was a dirty job.

“Our best for some was great,” Cailles said. “Some residents felt like there was nothing we could do to make it right.”

Cailles said that the first 11 claims they received totaled almost $3800.

“Since then I think we’ve had an additional 3000 (dollars) that we have filed or that have just come in,” Cailles said.

Apperson said he has been organizing them so the University Office of Claims Management will have minimal questions, if any. Last week, he said he hoped to have them out of his hands within the next two weeks.

Cailles said Wednesday she had still been receiving claims up until the last two or three weeks.

Cailles, who was the leader in the claims process because of her deep involvement with the flood, said the claims process is a lengthy one.

“It’s hard for residents to understand why this is taking so long,” Cailles said. “There (are) a lot of hands in the pot, so to speak.”

Residents must list every item they want to claim and the at-purchase price for each one, Cailles said. Along with the form, residents must turn over the items to Housing. Housing staff, or Cailles, investigates the claim to make sure it is accurate and writes a statement explaining the incident. The final decision whether residents will be reimbursed then lies with the claims office.

Apperson said that once he sends the claims to the claims office it shouldn’t take long to get a response.

As a solution to prevent lengthy processes like this from happening in the future, Apperson said students and their parents should look into renter’s insurance. Or, he suggested families should make sure to check with their homeowner’s insurance companies before a student moves into a residence hall to see if situations like this would be covered.