Legal Blog

Hurricane Harvey Trial: Will the Government Need to Pay Millions for Flood Damage?

Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, Texas in 2017. At that time, I wrote about the potential claim that the impacted landowners had for just compensation under the Fifth Amendment and eminent domain. On May 17, several impacted landowners finished a 2-week bench trial in the D.C.-based U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The crux of the plaintiffs/landowners’ argument was that the Army Corps of Engineers should provide them with just compensation for the flooding that caused their properties’ damage. According to the landowners, the Army Corps inactions in maintaining the city’s flood barriers caused the damage and constituted a “taking” or inverse condemnation.

The government argued that the landowners were advised that their properties were inside a reservoir and told to purchase flood insurance. Further, the government argued that the embankments/flood barriers were reasonably maintained and that their actions/inactions did not constitute a taking.

A decision as to whether the flooding constituted a taking is expected to be delivered in September 2019. If the court finds that the flooding was in fact a taking, the government will need to pay all impacted landowners just compensation for any flood damage caused by the storm. These potential damages likely range in the hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars.

The court’s ruling could potentially impact government entities, developers, and landowners’ rights across the country and change the face of eminent domain law. To stay abreast, I recommend watching for the court’s decision to better understand how broad (or narrow) potential future claims for property damage may be.


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Theodora Stringham assists individuals, businesses, and organizations with growing successfully while minimizing liability. Focusing on real estate and personnel needs, Ms. Stringham executes sustainable plans for real estate development and employee matters. She provides comprehensive representation for everyday growth issues, including, but not limited to, re-zonings, site plan approvals, eminent domain/valuation concerns, employment discrimination, and disciplinary issues. Ms. Stringham’s scope of representation ranges from identifying potential liability and providing counseling/trainings, all the way through representation at trial.






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