Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Lawsuits filed over dam releases

This ought to be interesting.

A group of flooded-out Harris County homeowners and businesses sued the federal government on Tuesday, accusing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of knowingly condemning their properties by releasing water from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs after Hurricane Harvey.

Bryant Banes, a civil attorney whose Heathwood home and his wife’s home business were deluged after the rains had subsided, is seeking compensation that could reach into the billions of dollars in what he hopes will become a massive class-action lawsuit that would include compensation for homeowners, building managers and business owners within the area flooded by the controlled releases.

“When they opened up the dams full blast, several hundred homes that were dry and not yet directly impacted by the storm — including mine —got flooded by the Corps’ action,” Banes said.

Banes doesn’t contend that the Corps did the wrong thing, only that the government must pay for the damages it caused.

“When they make a choice to flood one area to save another, it’s their responsibility to pay for the consequences,” he said.

Banes’ is one of three lawsuits filed Tuesday in state and federal court seeking to hold government agencies liable for flooding from the controlled releases.

[…]

Justin Hodge, an expert in eminent domain at Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, said such cases boil down to knowledge and intent — whether the government know what it was doing and intended to cause flooding that essentially amounted to “taking” of people’s properties.

“The government can’t accidentally take your property,” Hodge said. “If they accidentally opened the lever to the dam or the gates, that would not be a taking — that would be negligence.

“But if the government intentionally floods someone’s property there would be real merit,” he said.
Individuals can’t sue the government for an accident. But if the flooding was intentional and knowing, a person can file a claim. He said historically class actions have occurred in condemnation lawsuits but they’re very difficult to pull off.

“A lot of folks may be directly damaged by the dam releases but an investigation has to be made into each person’s claim,” he said. “I would caution property owners … not to try to jump in and file something without doing an appropriate investigation.”

He added, “I’d caution them to hire a lawyer that’s knowledgeable in this area of the law.”

It’s not exactly a secret that the Corps did what they did knowing it would flood some houses that had not previously flooded. And as attorney Banes said, it’s not about right or wrong, it’s about paying for the damage done. I Am Not A Lawyer, but this seems like a pretty straightforward claim that has merit to it. We’ll see how it plays out, and in the end how much it costs.

Related Posts:

9 Comments

  1. Flypusher says:

    I also have to wonder if all the homeowners got a realistic warning of the risks of buying in that area.

  2. C.L. says:

    @Flypusher…. By realistic, are you asking if the homeowner and/or their mortgage lender obtained a Flood Cert prior to closing the loan ? If they didn’t, it’s incredibly easy to see if you’re at risk…

    http://www.harriscountyfemt.org/

  3. neither here nor there says:

    C.L. that map is a guide only. My house until this time had never flooded and it has been here since the 50s. I have always kept flood insurance.

  4. C.L. says:

    @NHNT.. True, it’s just a guide, but (1) this town has been flooding fairly regularly since Allison in 2001, (2) a detailed FEMA map outlining flood zone, A, AO, H, AE, etc., is just a couple mouse clicks away, and (3) with Harris County being flatter than a proverbial pancake, it doesn’t take a scientist or engineer to understand building or buying a home downstream from a dam [Addicks/Barker Cypress] or 100 yards behind a levee [Sugarland along the Brazos] or a block from a concreted-over bayou [Meyerland] is tempting fate.

    At the end of the week, Harvey water didn’t care about the color of your skin or what your gross income was last year.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    @Neither:

    Sorry to hear that. I hope you get your house back in shape quickly. It’s a big hassle, I know. Glad you are OK, though.

  6. neither here nor there says:

    C.L. I take it you are a youngster that can’t think past his age.

    Stop and think that some people have lived in their homes for over 50 years. When I moved out where I lived, Southwest Freeway was two lanes and one had to travel to Highway 90 to travel south. There were no apartments, no other neighborhood within 1/2 mile from here. I have been in my home since 1978.

    One person, at least, in our neighborhood has lived here since 1956. Some how it is her fault for buying in area that now floods because the government failed to think about the future in regards to flooding.

    This is not a house it is a home, where my children grew up, it is full of memories.

    I think that every development upstream from me that was built after 1956, needs to be torn down and returned to its natural state, we would not flood if that was done.

    So your childish thinking has very little merit.

    Thanks Bill.

  7. C.L. says:

    @NHNT… While you were traveling the two lane SW Freeway, I was chasing cows and armadillos in the fields bordering Clear Lake… ’cause there was no development on the South side and little to none on the North….and driving the two lane SW Freeway.

    Both the Barker and Addicks Dam are from 1938…

    My point was, based on the unfettered development in the City and surrounding areas, the lack of zoning, the kowtowing to Developer’s interests, TIRZ debacles, lack of retention pond’s being built that are sized 125%, etc., EVERYONE should be carrying flood insurance.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    @C.L:

    I agree. Everyone in this area should have flood insurance.

    While I made it through Allison and Harvey without flooding, I will never not carry flood insurance. Frankly, I have little compassion for folks that live in Houston and don’t have it. Those folks live a nicer lifestyle than I do, blowing that money they should have spent on insurance on whatever else, IPhones, dinners out, whatever, meanwhile, Ol’ Bill is talking on two tin cans and a string and eating ramen, because his money went to buy insurance. Then, when something bad happens, all those free spenders who couldn’t be bothered with insurance suddenly have their hands out to Uncle Sugar.

  9. neither here nor there says:

    By the way when the neighborhood was built there was no two lane Southwest Freeway. Government has a lot to do with the flooding, after the expansion of the SW Frwy I noticed that Brays water was always higher downstream after some rain. Government did not provide for any detention of water. Those hike and bike trails are 10 feet of concrete adjacent to bayous with no detention provided for the concrete laid.

    Add that we have sunk about six feet because of removal of water from the aquifer beneath us and a recipe for flooding has been created by government’s failure. But then again we don’t give our politicians IQ tests before they can run.

    Actually I blame the people that run Harris County for their lack of foresight, the GHP (Greater Houston Partnership), as their members are in constant need of government money to keep themselves employed. This mostly has happened since the 1970s.

Bookmark and Share