News

May 15, 2019

Upstream Plaintiffs Rest Their Case in Harvey Flooding Trial

HOUSTON, TX – Homeowners who live upstream of the Addicks and Barker dams in Houston rested their case today in a closely-watched trial to determine whether the federal government, which maintains and operates the dams, is liable for flooding private property during Tropical Storm Harvey.

“The overwhelming evidence demonstrates that Addicks and Barker functioned exactly as designed and intended during Harvey by impounding water on private upstream properties,” said Daniel Charest, co-lead class counsel.  “The government flooded these private homes to save downtown Houston. Plaintiffs only ask to be made whole for the damage caused by the water the government stored on their property.”

The lawsuit alleges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers knew the capacity of the reservoirs behind the dams would exceed government-owned land and inundate about 10,000 private homes and businesses located inside the reservoir. According to plaintiffs, federal authorities knew for decades that such an inundation was inevitable but did nothing to prevent it.

The two-week bench trial focuses on 13 properties chosen as test cases to determine whether the federal government is liable for damage to their flooded homes. If they succeed, plaintiffs will seek to certify a class of upstream property owners. A trial to determine damages would follow.

On the third day of trial, Senior U.S. Judge Charles F. Lettow toured several test properties during a five-hour visit to the flood pools west of the reservoirs. At 12 stops along the route, the court heard testimony from plaintiffs and an engineer from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Using rainfall data, detailed maps of the area, and time­stamped photos taken by homeowners showing water levels around their properties during Harvey, Dr. Phil Bedient, a Rice University hydrologist, testified that the upstream properties flooded because of their location inside the reservoirs.

Plaintiffs allege the federal government violated the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment, which states that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation.

Upstream plaintiffs are represented by Daniel Charest, Larry Vincent, and Lydia Wright of Burns Charest, along with co-counsel.

The case is In re Upstream Addicks and Barker Flood-Control Reservoirs, pending in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Read more about the lawsuit at www.insideaddicksbarker.com.