A SunTrust Banks (STI) branch in Chattanooga, Tenn., isn't failing, but the ground beneath it is.

A legal battle is underway between SunTrust and the city of Chattanooga, Tenn., over a sinkhole that is swallowing a SunTrust branch office. SunTrust and its landlord, National Retail Properties, filed suit in federal court against the city of Chattanooga on March 13.

Bank employees first noticed the sinkhole in March of last year. The sinkhole has since gotten larger, SunTrust says, causing parts of the parking lot to collapse, as well as portions of the foundation under the branch building, located in Chattanooga's St. Elmo neighborhood at the foot of Lookout Mountain.

SunTrust notes in the lawsuit that a stormwater pipe runs below the building and its parking lot and that the sinkhole was caused by the deteriorating condition of the pipes. The bank and landlord blame Chattanooga city officials for neglecting to perform adequate maintenance on the stormwater tubes.

SunTrust claims that city officials say that the bank and its landlord are responsible for making repairs to the stormwater system. SunTrust estimates it would cost about $500,000 to make the needed repairs.

The city of Chattanooga had not filed a response to the lawsuit, as of Thursday. A SunTrust spokesman declined to comment.

Coincidentally, SunTrust plans to close the branch office on April 11, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. The closure is not related to the sinkhole, SunTrust says.


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