Correct, you can sue and "allege" negligence. But you would have to prove (with evidence) that he was negligent. He wouldn't have to prove that he wasn't.
That the machine was 10 years old has nothing to do with anything.
You would have to show that the owner knew of a defect and failed to remedy the defect.
Unfortunately, the discharge of water from an appliance is almost always sudden and unforseen. That would not be negligence even if it was 20 years old.
There's certainly nothing stopping you from suing. But when you tell the judge he's negligent because the washing machine was 10 years old, you'll lose.
Well, after 9 long months of dealing with insurance companies and continually getting reduffed - I proceeded to small claims court and took maters into my own hands. I simply informed the judge of the following:
I have evidence and statements which confirm that a washing machine in their unit broke, and
despite notification of that damage (and obvious water emanating from the machine) the machine
was used continuously—exacerbating intrusion into my property.
Based on this, their action caused damage to my property, may be recovered
under Cal. Civ. Code § 3281. Alternatively, a general private nuisance action may be brought
under Cal Code of Civ. Proc. § 731, as my property has been “injuriously affected,”
and “the owners’ personal enjoyment lessened by a nuisance,” as defined in Civil Code § 3479.
That “nuisance may be enjoined or abated as well as damages recovered therefor.”
Further, the continued use of the machine in the face of the warnings, and water accumulation at
the bottom of the machine constitutes negligence. In California, a duty to exercise due care arises
from the ownership of property, alone. See, e.g., Sprecher v. Adamson Cos, 30 Cal 3d. 358, 367
(1981). See also Cal. Civil Code Sec. 1714(a). In particular, “ [e]veryone is responsible, not only
for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her
want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”
I won in court - the case was a slam dunk in my favor. They tried playing that old insurance trick saying that they had no prior knowledge of a problem, therefore they were not at fault - which may work in the world of claim denials - but in front of the judge he literally laughed at them. He asked if the washing machine failed because it was struck by lightning or because of an act of God - they quitely replied, "No sir."
I got a judgment in the mail a few days later, and not too long after that a check.
My advice to those in legal matters reading these discussion boards - see a lawyer. The discussion typically seen on this site is of the quality you would expect from a discussion board—brief, and focused on the facts provided. It does not discuss the whole facts of the case. It may be more expensive - but you'll have more peace of mind with what is a very real situation your faced with.