Midland Dam Flood Victims Can Seek Compensation After Sommers Schwartz Gets a Victory in the Michigan Court of Appeals
Sep 12, 2023
Detroit, Michigan – In 2020, Michigan’s hydropower dams, teetering on the brink due to neglect, culminated in disaster. The dam owners’ failure to maintain operating standards led to the State of Michigan’s intervention. Ignoring clear signs of the dam’s vulnerability, the state chose to keep water levels perilously high. This decision backfired spectacularly when a major storm led to a massive flood, decimating the scenic beauty of Wixom Lake and resulting in immense property damage.
Sommers Schwartz, under the leadership of partner Jason J. Thompson, stood at the forefront of the legal battle as a champion for the rights of the Midland dam flood victims.
Many aggrieved parties, from homeowners to businesses, sought justice based on “inverse condemnation”—a principle asserting that significant property damage by government actions equates to forced property acquisition without fair remuneration.
Despite the State of Michigan’s attempts to dismiss the claim based on the perceived irrelevance of inverse condemnation, the trial court remained unconvinced, prompting an appeal.
In the appellate court, David R. Parker of Sommers Schwartz articulated the state’s complicity in the disaster, underscoring choices like maintaining high water levels before the flood and disseminating misleading information about the dam’s status.
The Court of Appeals, drawing parallels with the Flint Water Crises, validated the plaintiffs’ arguments. As the State had been found accountable in the Flint case for exposing citizens to polluted water, here too, the State’s proactive role in the flooding debacle was acknowledged.
The debate on whether the State’s actions served a “public use” took center stage. Typically associated with state-led property acquisitions, the term was expansively interpreted. The State’s endeavor to sustain specific environmental conditions, despite jeopardizing human safety and assets, signaled a public use motive. Echoing this view, the Court ruled the state’s endeavors did represent public use, necessitating appropriate compensation for the aggrieved.
This groundbreaking verdict not only clears the path for remuneration for those affected by the Midland dam flood but also showcases the perseverance of Sommers Schwartz’s attorneys, particularly Mr. Thompson and Mr. Parker, in championing justice.
“It is unsettling when your own government harms you. But when they get caught, and they hire lawyers to try and avoid accountability, that is infuriating. Last week the Court of Appeals rejected the State’s attempt to run from what they did. We won’t stop until the State takes responsibility for what they did to their own citizens,” said attorney Jason J. Thompson.
Homeowners, businesses, and renters who suffered losses from the Midland dam flood are encouraged to contact Sommers Schwartz at (248) 355-0300 or visit https://sommerspc.com.
Kriegler v Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and Department of Natural Resources
Court of Appeals of Michigan
Forbes v Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
Court of Appeals of Michigan
Sommers Schwartz is a powerhouse litigation firm made up of experienced personal injury lawyers, medical malpractice attorneys, commercial and business law attorneys, and employee rights lawyers fighting for unpaid wages and overtime. The law firm serves clients across the country from its offices in Michigan and California.
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