When the Levee Breaks: U.S. Government Faces Lawsuit Over Tropical Storm Harvey Flooding in Texas
Written by: Sam Orlando
Texas Residents Take Legal Action over Property Damage Sustained During Tropical Storm Harvey
HOUSTON, TX – A lawsuit was filed yesterday in the United States Court of Federal Claims by Texas residents Jimmie E. Lewis, Jr. and Talitha Lewis, among others, against the United States of America. The plaintiffs accuse the federal government of intentionally flooding their properties during Tropical Storm Harvey in 2017 without offering just compensation, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
What Is the U.S. Court of Federal Claims?
The United States Court of Federal Claims, located in Washington, D.C., is a special federal court that hears monetary claims against the U.S. government. Unlike other federal courts, it is not an Article III tribunal but operates under Article I of the U.S. Constitution. This is the court where individuals and corporations can seek financial redress directly from the federal government.
According to the filed complaint, water impounded in Barker and Addicks Reservoirs during Tropical Storm Harvey led to the flooding of the plaintiffs' real and personal properties. They argue that the federal government's actions, which they refer to as "Government Action," effectively resulted in a 'taking' of their property without just compensation, a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The lawsuit presents four counts:
Temporary Taking of a Flowage Easement: Alleging that the impounded water temporarily took a flowage easement on their properties without compensation.
Temporary Taking of Other Property Interests: Claiming that other property interests were temporarily taken without just remuneration.
Permanent Taking of Damaged and Destroyed Property: Arguing that the flooding permanently damaged or destroyed their property, constituting a 'taking' without compensation.
Permanent Taking of a Flowage Easement: Suggesting that the impounded water resulted in a permanent flowage easement on their properties without just compensation.
The plaintiffs filed their complaint with several other residents who have also sued the United States, and are represented by Scott A. Love of Clark, Love & Hutson, PLLC, a Houston-based law firm.
Why It Matters
The lawsuit adds to the growing number of legal battles concerning the responsibilities of the U.S. government in the face of increasingly severe weather events, often exacerbated by climate change. The outcome could set a precedent for how the federal government responds to, and compensates for, natural disasters in the future.
As the plaintiffs prepare for the litigation ahead, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims will be the arena where these constitutional questions are scrutinized, with potential implications for governmental liability in the era of climate change.
Stay tuned to Breaking Through News for further updates as this case progresses through the Court of Federal Claims.