Judge finds government liable for flooding property owners upstream of Addicks, Barker reservoirs after Hurricane Harvey

Addicks Reservoir is located north of I-10 in the Katy area. (Community Impact Staff)
Addicks Reservoir is located north of I-10 in the Katy area. (Community Impact staff)

Addicks Reservoir is located north of I-10 in the Katy area. (Community Impact staff)

A federal judge issued an opinion and order Dec. 17 related to the class action lawsuit in which property owners allege the Army Corps of Engineers unlawfully flooded thousands of properties upstream of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs after Hurricane Harvey.

Senior Judge Charles F. Lettow of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied the government’s February 2018 motion to dismiss the trial and concluded the Army Corps’ actions are liable, according to the opinion.

With the court, the parties involved must put a plan in place for addressing damages, according to the order and attorney Daniel Charest of Burns Charest LLP, one of the law firms representing the property owners.

Specifically, the lawsuit examined 13 test properties out of the thousands that flooded to determine whether the U.S. government was liable for taking private property without compensation to store impounded floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey, per the opinion.

All other upstream property cases were on hold while 13 test property cases were litigated at trial on the issue of the government’s liability, attorney Mary Conner of Irvine & Conner PLLC—the other law firm representing the property ownerssaid in May.


“The Army Corps allowed the west Houston homes to flood by not releasing water from the reservoirs downstream,” according to a press release from media relations firm Androvett Legal Media & Marketing Ltd. on behalf of Irvine & Conner and Burns Charest.

Neighborhoods upstream of the reservoirs include Cinco Ranch, Canyon Gate, Grand Lakes, Kelliwood, Lakes on Eldridge, Saddlebrook, Twin Lakes, and the subdivisions of Mayde and Bear creeks.

“[Not releasing the water] amounted to the ‘taking’ of their property under the Fifth Amendment ... [which] states that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation,” the release continued.

With Lettow’s order, property owners upstream of the reservoirs can seek certification as a class and may move the case to trial to determine damages to be paid by the government, per the release.

“Now that the court has determined that property owners should be compensated, the question now is for what and how much,” Charest said.

He said the parties will focus on determining the types of damages that can be compensated by the government. Charest was unable to provide a timeline and monetary figure for damages sought but said between 10,000-12,000 property owners are part of the lawsuit. There is a separate lawsuit related to properties flooded downstream of the reservoirs.

Community Impact Newspaper reached out to the defendant, the U.S. Department of Justice, which has not provided a comment as of 1 p.m. Dec. 18.

Lawsuit timeline

  • Sept. 15, 2017: Lawsuit filed

  • Spring 2018: Thirteen test cases selected for lawsuit

  • May 16, 2018: Court of Federal Claims has hearing on the defense’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit

  • May 6, 2019: 10-day trial held in Houston

  • Sept. 13, 2019: Court hears closing arguments in Washington, D.C.

  • Dec. 17, 2019, Court of Federal Claims issues opinion and order in favor of plaintiffs

SHARE THIS STORY
By Jen Para

Jen joined Community Impact Newspaper in fall 2018 as the editor of the Katy edition. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Jen has written about business, politics and education. Prior to CI, Jen was the web producer at Houston Business Journal.


MOST RECENT

Here is what to know about rent, mortgages and utility bills during the coronavirus. (Courtesy Fotolia)
FAQ: Paying bills in the time of coronavirus

What to know about rent, mortgages and utility bills during the coronavirus

Cisco's Salsa Company in Tomball offers food to-go. (April Halpin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Facebook groups drive support to local restaurants in northwest Houston areas

Nick's Local Eats and Houston Eats To-Go are just two Facebook groups who have urged members to support local eateries amid the coronavirus outbreak causing restrictions on restaurant dine-in services.

Cy-Fair ISD launched the districtwide Learning at Home program March 23. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Cy-Fair ISD families adjust to remote learning

Melissa Dawn Gatlin, an associate professor of education at Lone Star College-University Park, offered advice to parents offering support to their students during this time.

Texas Tribune: Some local elections in Texas moving ahead despite coronavirus spread

A handful of towns and special districts still plan to go ahead with their May 2 votes, arranging polling places despite calls from the president on down directing people to stay at home to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Lake Travis Fire Rescue is one of hundreds of emergency service districts serving millions of Texas residents across the state. Firefighters, EMTs and medical professionals said they are concerned about the availability of personal protective equipment as the coronavirus public health crisis continues. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
First responders, medical professionals across Texas worry about inadequate personal protective equipment supplies

In a survey of emergency service districts across the state, two-thirds of respondents said they were concerned about a shortage of equipment such as masks, goggles and gloves.

Harris County is the third fastest-growing county in the U.S., according to 2019 census data. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Harris County ranked fastest-growing, most populous county in Texas by 2019 census data

As the 2020 U.S. Census rolls out across the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau released its July 1, 2019, population estimates March 26.

Census day is April 1. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
With local funding on the line, Houston's census advocates navigate coronavirus challenges

An undercount in the Houston area could affect federal aid allocations and congressional representation.

All Cy-Fair ISD campuses and facilities are closed during the coronavirus outbreak. (Danica Smithwick/Community Impact Newspaper)
Cy-Fair ISD announces school closure extension through May 1

Cy-Fair ISD Superintendent Mark Henry announced March 31 that district campuses and facilities would remain closed through May 1.

Patrick Jankowski projects more than 150,000 regional job losses due to the coronavirus. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Houston economist predicts more than 150,000 job losses this year due to coronavirus

While sectors that are considered nonessential and cannot deliver their goods and services remotely are most at risk, the economist said all jobs are on the line if the shutdown continues after May.

Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans and issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference. (Screenshot via livestream)
'Now is the time to redouble our efforts': Abbott issues executive order for state on COVID-19 extending school closures, clarifying essential services

Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans and issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference.

Lone Star College campuses will remain closed until April 30. (Photo by Danica Smithwick/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lone Star College campuses closed until April 30

Lone Star College's updated spring semester includes keeping campuses closed until April 30.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo provided updates on the county's "Stay Home-Work Safe" order at a March 30 press conference. (Screenshot via Harris County)
Hidalgo: Extension of stay-at-home order not a matter of 'if,' but 'how long'

The order was set to expire April 3 but will be extended as cases of COVID-19 spike in the county.