City of Bellevue, school votes to pay family $5M over landslide that destroyed home in 2022

Dec 12, 2023, 6:16 AM

Bellevue house...

(KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — The City of Bellevue and a Bellevue private school have authorized a combined $5 million settlement to the family whose home was destroyed in a landslide in early 2022.

The Bellevue City Council voted to approve the settlement at Monday night’s meeting.

The City of Bellevue will pay $3 million while the school will separately pay the family $2 million.On Jan. 17, 2022, a water main break knocked John and Barb Surdi’s home off its foundation in the Somerset neighborhood. That led to the evacuation of 42 other people in the neighborhood over fears that other houses may have been unstable.

Dave Bricklin, an attorney for John and Barb Surdi, said Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart had installed the pipelines, which were designed by a previous utility district, which the City of Bellevue now owns.

He said the pipeline was not designed effectively.

“They had loosely put one end of one pipe into the next pipe and over time they separated. And that’s what caused the water to come out, liquify the hillside, landslide, and destroyed their home,” he said. “The cutting corners, if you will, was by the engineers who designed this and did not design it with secure joints.”

Following the disaster, the city sued the family to request the demolition of the collapsed home and to clean up debris in the surrounding area to make the neighborhood safe. In the weeks that followed, once the family agreed to the demolition, the city dropped the lawsuit.

Six months after the slide, the Surdis filed their own lawsuit against the city.

Bricklin said the couple had filed an amended lawsuit to include both the City of Bellevue and Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart.

“It was the city’s pipe and the city was responsible for that pipe for the past 50 years ever since it was put in the ground and our view of the City was the responsible party,” he said. “The school probably made things worse by dumping loose fill on that hillside, which added pressure on that pipe, which accelerated the process of the pipe pulling apart.”

However, the city in turn sued Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart.

The city’s lawsuit alleged that the school had added “non-structural fill on the hillside above the water main,” increasing pressure on the pipe and compromising the stability of the hillside. The school later filed a claim blaming the city for the damage.

The city and the school also agreed to drop their competing claims against each other as a condition of the settlement.

KIRO 7 spoke with John Surdi, co-owner of the home where his family had lived for more than two decades, about the settlement.

“I felt better. I wish the City and the school had realized this two years ago that they were responsible for this and they wouldn’t have made us wait for two years to give us exactly what we asked for in the beginning,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy. Our whole life has been in that home. We raised four kids in that house. Everything we had was in that house and the memories too.”

Surdi said he and his wife had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past two years to resolve the issue.

“We’ve spent over a half a million dollars for something we didn’t do. We were minding our own business and the city could have settled this a long time ago, but they are now, hopefully tonight,” he said before the Bellevue City Council’s meeting.

Surdi said he is not sure if he and his wife will rebuild on their current property or explore other locations.

He said his wife had been sleeping inside the home with their 10-month Golden Retriever when the mudslide “knocked the house 20 feet off its foundation” and destroyed their home.

“She thought it was an earthquake,” he said.

“My wife can’t. She still can’t go up the street. She can’t even go up that street to see where the house used to be. She can’t handle that. We’re going to have to figure that out. Should we rebuild? Sell the land? That’s another decision we’ll have to make moving forward,” he explained.

“We’re both in a state of trauma over this whole thing. It’s a very strange feeling. But we’re here. And we’re moving forward,” he said.

Surdi expressed his gratitude for those who have supported his loved ones since the loss of his family’s home.

“It’s really humbling. Really humbling. And they’re still supporting us,” he said.

KIRO 7 reached out to the City of Bellevue ahead of the council meeting to learn more about its settlement and request an in-person interview. A spokesperson for the city denied our request, but shared the following statement:

We are thankful first and foremost that no one was hurt in the landslide that happened last year and that the parties have been able to reach a resolution of the claims brought by the Surdi family. The settlement will go before the City Council tonight for action. While the city still contends the slide occurred due to factors out of its control, this anticipated resolution reflects a negotiated outcome among the Surdi family, the City, and the Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart to resolve this issue for this Bellevue family without further delay. -City of Bellevue

KIRO 7 also reached out to Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart to learn more about its settlement. A spokesperson for the school did not answer our questions, but shared the following statement:

Forest Ridge has reached an agreement to resolve an ongoing lawsuit involving the City of Bellevue and the Surdi family. We are glad to have reached an agreement in this case so all parties can move forward. -Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart

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City of Bellevue, school votes to pay family $5M over landslide that destroyed home in 2022