Jason Webster and Kimberly Spurlock, two local lawyers, have teamed up to represent Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest (NKF) flood victims. On May 7th, video captured floodwater streaming out of the 268-acre site north and west of those two subdivisions. The contractor had already clearcut most of the land for the developer’s new Woodridge Village. However, the contractor had not yet excavated the key detention pond next to the people who flooded. As a result, it appears that runoff from the mostly clay soils in the new development compounded street flooding already in progress. That’s when the volume of water became more than the streets could handle and hundreds of homes flooded.
Third Wave of Lawsuits Filed Last Week
The third wave of lawsuits filed by Webster and Spurlock against defendants Figure Four Partners, LTD; PSWA, Inc.; and Rebel Contractors, Inc. brings the total of plaintiffs they represent to more than 200.
This is not a class action suit. Each plaintiff suffered different amounts of damage. It is a series of individual lawsuits. Here is the first wave of plaintiffs, the second, the third and the basis for the claims.
The lawsuits allege negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, nuisance, and violation of Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code. Plaintiffs seek exemplary damages and a permanent injunction among other things.
Figure Four and LJA Engineering Response
A statement by Figure Four Partners, LTD, claims the flood was an act of God and that many of the detention ponds were already complete. However, LJA Engineering, which had been hired by Figure Four to design drainage for the new development, later said that none of the detention ponds was complete. One one was fully excavated, but not yet completed, they said.
Natural Drainage Filled Near Highest Concentration of Flooded Homes
Only about 1% of the homes in Kingwood flooded on May 7th. Of those, almost all were adjacent to the land that Figure Four and Rebel Contractors clearcut. They also sloped the land toward the flooded homes – without first excavating critical detention ponds needed to prevent flooding.
According to numerous residents, the contractor also filled in existing streams and wetlands while grading the property. Partially as a result, homes that never flooded before suddenly flooded during what Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindner characterized as a 2-year to 50-year rain event. Plans show that if the detention ponds had been constructed, they should have held a 100-year rain.
Next Steps in Lawsuits
District court record searches indicate that no other law firm has yet filed suit against these defendants for the Elm Grove and NKF flooding. However, they may. At least two other law firms have held meetings with residents.
Meanwhile, the court has scheduled oral arguments for the temporary injunction against Figure Four Partners, LTD; PSWA, Inc.; and Rebel Contractors for July 8 at 2:30 PM in the 11th Judicial District Court. This is for the second batch of plaintiffs.
Previous Problems Surface for Rebel Contractors
A search of Harris County District Court records found a separate lawsuit against Rebel Contractors for a different incident. Harris County and the State of Texas (on behalf of the TCEQ) sued the company for its practice of burning trees while clearing land. The plaintiffs claimed the practice added to air pollution and harmed health. The County and State won an injunction against Rebel Contractors. Rebel agreed to stop its burning.
“Rainxiety” Sets In
A new term is floating around: rainxiety. That’s the anxiety flood victims feel whenever rain is forecast. Dozens of residents have told me that they sweat, their hearts race, and they begin to panic whenever it rains. One even begins humming Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” That should become the theme song for Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.
“Still the rain kept pourin’,
Fallin’ on my ears.
And I wonder, Still I wonder
Who’ll stop the rain.”
By John Fogarty
All thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/29/2019 with help from Jeff Miller
638 Days since Hurricane Harvey