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Public Health Emergency: Legal Preparedness & Response

In re Upstream Addicks and Barker (Texas) Flood-Control Reservoirs

Overview

In re Upstream Addicks and Barker (Texas) Flood-Control Reservoirs (U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Dec. 17, 2019): The Court of Federal Claims found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers liable for damages to properties flooded during Hurricane Harvey. It found the government’s failure to control overflowing reservoirs despite decades-long knowledge of risks of flooding of surrounding properties constituted a taking for which reasonable compensation is due. As a result of the ruling in this “test” case, hundreds of property owners may pursue damages, likely through a class action involving more than $1 billion. The damaged properties lie adjacent to the government’s reservoirs, upstream of Houston. The government argued that the flooding was the result of a natural disaster and that the Army Corps was compelled to allow the reservoirs to overflow to protect downstream properties in the more densely-populated Houston. The court found, however, that the government was aware of flood risks of cataclysmic storms like Harvey. The government’s inaction was therefore deemed an affirmative, advance decision and not an emergency decision. Read the decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – January 15, 2020.

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