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updated: 6/10/2013 3:43 PM

Geneva sued for fallen tree limb that caused house fire

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If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

What if a tree falls, severs an electrical line and causes an electrical fire -- especially if the city owns the tree?

An insurance company is suing the city of Geneva for $650,000 in damages for an electrical fire at a home caused by a fallen tree branch in August.

According to a lawsuit recently filed in Kane County, the West American Insurance Company alleges the city was negligent and should be held responsible for a fire that caused $352,113.72 damage to a home on the 300 block of South Fifth Street on Aug. 3.

According to the suit, a tree branch fell on April 7, 2011, and landed on a wire connected to the home, causing a power outage.

City crews removed the tree limb and the homeowners asked that the tree be removed. The city "advised" them it would be, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit does not state what, if any, assurances the homeowners were given that the tree was to be removed.

The tree remained, and on Aug. 3, another tree branch fell and again pulled wires from the home, disconnecting the neutral wire.

"Immediately after the tree limb fell, pulling the electrical wires from the home, a fire ignited on the second floor of the (house) as a result of electrical current spikes caused by the severed neutral connection," the lawsuit states.

The insurance company argues the city knew about the danger, was negligent and should be held responsible for the $352,000 in damages to the home, but also another $300,000 held in reserve.

Matthew McLean, an attorney representing the insurance company, did not returne phone messages. A message left at the Geneva Fire Department for information about the fire was referred to Assistant Geneva City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins, who said the city had not been served with the suit and could not comment.

Dawkins said the Freedom of Information Act request would be required to obtain information about the fire. The Daily Herald submitted a FIOA request on Thursday. As of Monday, there was no response to it.

An initial court appearance on the lawsuit is scheduled for Aug. 22.

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