Hurricane Harvey

Suits target government's decision to release reservoir water during Hurricane Harvey

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Dozens of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Houston homeowners seeking compensation as a result of a federal decision to release water from two reservoirs during Hurricane Harvey.

The homeowners contend the release by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers amounts to an improper taking under the Fifth Amendment, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The homeowners contend they are entitled to compensation under the law of eminent domain. However, the theory could face court challenges and “a payout isn’t a sure thing,” according to the article.

Government court filings argue that a single flood by the government, as opposed to recurring flooding, is not a taking as a matter of law. The government argues the water had to be released to avoid a possible rupture of the dams resulting in even greater damage.

There are two groups of plaintiffs: those whose property flooded in the upstream reservoir areas as the rain fell, and those who lived downstream and experienced flooding after the water release.

Judge Susan Braden of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has set a deadline for lawyers to apply to become lead counsel. She also asked lawyers for suggestions on the best way to consolidate the cases already filed.

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