The destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey is presenting many complex legal challenges. For homeowners and business owners, there are many uncertainties regarding repairing flood damage. While litigation can sometimes be slow, there have been significant strides made in processing Hurricane Harvey Claims, and a schedule has been put in place to keep the litigation moving forward.
The Court’s Efforts to Organize the Litigation
On October 31, 2017, Judge Susan G. Braden entered an order creating a “Master Docket” entitled In re: Addicks and Barker (Texas) Flood-Control Reservoirs, Case No. 17-3000L. Although this is an organizational formality, its creation will enable the court and the parties involved to drill down on important scheduling issues in order to move the cases forward as quickly as possible. The cases filed within the master docket are now accessible on the court’s website. The court also conducted a hearing on November 1, 2017 in order to advance the organization and scheduling of the cases. Following that hearing, Judge Braden entered several orders.
Separation Into “Upstream” and “Downstream” Groups
The court has placed the upstream reservoir pooling cases and the downstream Buffalo Bayou corridor inundation cases on separate litigation tracks, recognizing the legal issues for these two groups are distinct. When the government files its initial motions to dismiss the claims, we expect to see them make separate arguments based on whether cases are upstream or downstream. For that reason, the court has also required the law firms involved to designate each of their filed cases as an upstream or downstream matter, and we have done so on behalf of our firm’s clients.
Near Term Motions to the Court
The Court has outlined the following schedule to address 1) preliminary jurisdictional motions, and 2) dispositive motions for summary judgment. We expect the government to file both types of motions and engage in every effort to avoid these claims, including appeals. While it is possible the schedule may be disrupted for appeal or extended by the Court, the judge has set out a relatively brisk briefing schedule.
Hurricane Harvey Reservoir Claims Briefing Schedule:
- December 8, 2017: The government will file a motion for more definite statement.
- December 15, 2017: The parties will exchange mandatory initial disclosures.
- December 29, 2017: Document exchanges.
- January 15, 2018: Plaintiffs may file amended complaints in response to the government’s motion for more definite statement.
- February 15, 2018: The government will file a motion to dismiss, likely on jurisdictional grounds.
- March 15, 2018: Plaintiffs must respond to the motion to dismiss.
- April 2, 2018: The government must reply to plaintiffs’ responses to motions to dismiss.
- June 15, 2018: The government must file any dispositive motions, such as motions for summary judgment.
- July 14, 2018: The Court will conduct a hearing on the motion to dismiss.
July 16, 2018: The parties must respond to the government’s motions for summary judgment.
- July 31, 2018: The parties may file replies to the motions for summary judgment.
October 29, 2018: The Court will conduct a hearing on the motions for summary judgment.
Litigation, particularly against the government, tends to move fairly slowly. That said, Judge Braden’s experience during the Katrina litigation appears to have prompted her to establish an aggressive briefing schedule, and the critical motions to avoid liability should be resolved within the timeframes set out above. In the event plaintiffs are successful on these motions, the government has a right to appeal, and likely will. While firms like ours will do our best to move this forward quickly, the government will work equally hard to slow it down.
Hurricane Harvey Reservoir Lawyers
At Raizner Slania LLP, we know how Hurricane Harvey disrupted lives because we’re a local Houston firm that lived through it. We have nationwide experience helping homeowners and business owners in a variety of insurance damage claims, and we are dedicated to helping the people of Houston recover after Harvey. If Harvey flooded your home or business, contact us today. We can help answer any questions you might have and pursue compensation on your behalf.