Union College sues insurer for $1M in burst pipe case

PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZ Union College's Olin Center.PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZ Union College's Olin Center.

By Steven Cook

SCHENECTADY — Union College is suing its insurer for more than $1 million, claiming the company failed to fully cover damage from a burst water pipe.

The college filed the suit last week in Schenectady County, citing February 2015 damage caused at the school’s Olin Center. Frigid weather burst a pipe there, severely damaging the building’s contents.

The suit places the school’s losses at just over $5 million. The college is arguing its insurer, Hartford Fire Insurance Company, still owes $1.1 million to fully cover the damages.

A representative of Hartford would not comment on the suit this week.

A fire alarm alerted students in the building to the leak, prompting them to evacuate. Classrooms, offices and labs were all hit by the water, officials said at the time. Students left their belongings and returned later to find laptops destroyed.

The college hired a private restoration company and relocated classes after the flooding. The north side of the building reopened within days, but the south side sustained worse damage and did not reopen until that September, according to the college.

The incident followed another damaging flood — seven months earlier — that was caused by a water main break. That flood damaged Old Chapel, Hale House, South College and the school’s popular Rathskeller gathering space.

The Rathskeller, a pub-like focal point for students in the basement of Old Chapel, took the brunt of the damage. It remained closed throughout the 2014-15 school year, reopening in September 2015.

The incident also resulted in a million-dollar lawsuit between the insurer and the city. Hartford blames the city for the water main break, contending work near the campus caused it. The insurance company is seeking $1.7 million from the city — the amount it paid to the college in that case.

The college itself is not a party to that suit, which is pending, records show.