Downstream Reservoir Claims
The dams on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs are designed to remain open most of the time, closing only during rainfall events to prevent heavy flooding downstream in downtown Houston. During Hurricane Harvey, the dams were under serious renovation. Because of the dams’ deteriorating conditions, the pressure from the collected floodwaters put the dams at risk for catastrophic failure. To prevent such a failure, the government chose to open the dams and allowed floodwaters to inundate properties downstream of the dams. While the controlled dam releases prevented catastrophic failure of the dams, it also constituted a taking private property for public use. Property owners therefore have a right to compensation from the Federal Government for their damaged property under the Fifth Amendment.
Upstream Reservoir Claims
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the Addicks and Barker reservoirs with flood pools around the reservoirs. Most of the time, these flood pools remain dry but are specifically designed to hold water in the event of major rainfall events. Because land inside these flood pools occasionally floods, the government began purchasing the land in the 1940s to prevent construction in areas with flood potential. However, the government did not purchase all of the land inside the flood pools, and thousands of homes were built within these flood pools over the years.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the water level in the Addicks reservoir reached an elevation of 109.1 feet. Because the government only purchased land up to an elevation of 103.2 feet, residential homes along the edges of the Addicks reservoir above that elevation suffered serious flood damage. Similarly, the water level in the Barker reservoir flood pools reached an elevation of 101.5 feet, but the government’s property line only included areas up to 95 feet. By allowing floodwaters to pool in elevations exceeding their property lines, the government effectively seized thousands of properties and allowed for their destruction.
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The lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP are leaders in bad faith insurance litigation and have worked together on property cases for a number of years. Founding partner Jeff Raizner was co-liaison counsel on the Hurricane Ike litigation in Houston, and has been selected by courts and his peers to serve on a number of steering committees established to manage and guide litigation involving insurance and other disputes; he is a recognized leader nationwide in complex commercial property insurance litigation.
Partner Andrew Slania has served as the lead attorney on hundreds of commercial property insurance disputes throughout the nation and presents regularly to numerous insurance-related trade associations. Lawyer Amy Hargis has represented numerous property owners in litigation against their insurance carriers for bad faith practices.
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