Tag Archive for: PSWA

Porter Residents File Lawsuit Against Perry Homes, Its Subsidiaries, Contractors

In the continuing saga of the Woodridge Village fiasco, lawyers Jason Webster and Kimberley Spurlock have filed a new lawsuit on behalf of approximately 50 Porter residents who flooded on May 7th and/or September 19th in 2019. Webster and Spurlock previously filed lawsuits on behalf of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents who flooded on those same days.

Beating Statute of Limitations

Webster and Spurlock filed the new suit on May 5th, 2021. Normally, a two-year statute of limitations applies in such cases, according to one lawyer I talked to. So these plaintiffs just beat the deadline.

Documents filed yesterday with the District Clerk of Harris County make many of the same allegations made in the Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest flooding cases, with one crucial addition. These residents, who live on the west side of Woodridge Village, also claim that the defendants blocked drainage coming out of their neighborhoods, thus backing water up.

Contractors built Woodridge Village (right) up about 3 feet relative neighbors (left) without providing a path for water to drain. Note ponding water on left where plaintiff Chris Yates lives. Photo courtesy of Yates.

Legal Basis for Claims

Defendants allege that the proximate cause of flooding to their homes was an illegal impoundment of surface water caused by defective construction practices. They cite Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code. It states that “No person may divert or impound the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion or impounding by him to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another by the overflow of the water diverted or impounded.”

In relation to the alleged “defective construction practices, plaintiffs claim “Negligence, Negligent Retention, Negligent Supervision, Negligence Per Se, and Gross Negligence for the May 7, 2019 floods.” Pages 14 and 15 of their complaint claim 34 separate failures.

Plaintiffs also claim Negligence, Negligence Per Se and Gross Negligence against the developer defendants for the September 19th flood. In regard to those claims, they list 29 separate failures relating to inadequate construction.

Plaintiffs further allege defendants created a nuisance and “trespassed” on their property. From a legal point of view, trespass includes “causing something to enter another’s property.” In this case, the something was water.

List of Defendants

Defendants in the lawsuit include the developers, engineering company and contractors. They include:

  • Perry Homes, LLC (developer)
  • Figure Four Partners, LTD (a Perry Subsidiary)
  • PSWA, Inc. (another Perry Subsidiary)
  • LJA Engineering Inc.
  • Rebel Contractors, Inc.
  • Double Oak Construction, Inc.
  • Texasite, LLC
  • Concourse Development, LLC

LJA Played Central Role

LJA played a central role in the flooding. Perry and its subsidiaries hired LJA to engineer the development and help supervise contractors to ensure they were working to plan. Plaintiffs allege LJA:

  • Failed to follow the correct drainage guidelines for Montgomery County
  • Failed to enforce the construction schedule
  • Failed to provide adequate drainage
  • Failed to adequately model the development
  • Removed drainage channels
  • Caused water elevations to increase downstream
  • Failed to design adequate detention ponds
  • Failed to use the correct hydrology method
  • Failed to design emergency overflows
  • Failed to comply with the soil report produced by Terracon Consultants, Inc.
  • Failed to protect water runoff from flooding Plaintiff’s homes
  • Violated the contractors duty and standard of care.

Plaintiffs Seeking Compensation For…

Plaintiffs seek compensation for damages including:

  • Cost of repairs
  • Cost of replacement or fair market value of personal property lost, damaged, or destroyed
  • Loss of use of personal property
  • Loss of income and business income
  • Consequential costs incurred such as hotel accommodations and replacement costs
  • Mental anguish and/or emotional distress
  • Prejudgment interest
  • Post judgment interest
  • Attorneys’ fees
  • Court costs
  • Exemplary and punitive damages

Finally, the plaintiffs seek a jury trial to decide issues of fact in the case.

For Text of the Full Case and Expert Witness Report

For the full 32-page complaint, click here.

For the 253-page certificate of merit in the case, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/6/2021

1346 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 595 since Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Defendants, Plaintiffs Latest Legal Wrangling in Elm Grove Lawsuits

When last I checked on the lawsuits brought by Elm Grove residents against Perry Homes, et. al., it was early August. The plaintiff’s lawyers had added Concourse Development to the lawsuits and the defendants’ lawyers were blaming everyone in sight, including the flood victims, for their problems.

In September, 2019, residents on Village Springs Dr. in Elm Grove we’re still living in trailers from the May 7th flood when they were struck again. Woodridge Village is immediately to the right, just out of frame. Shown here: sheet flow coming from Woodridge.

Since August, both defendants and plaintiffs have filed another 122 documents, totaling hundreds of pages on the Harris County District Clerk’s website. Some make entertaining reading.

Now, for instance, the defendants’ lawyers argue that they shouldn’t be forced to produce resumes for people being deposed because experience has nothing to do with qualifications.

So here’s what’s happened since the last update.

Key Developments in August

  • Double Oak Construction moved to quash plaintiffs’ “notice of intent” to take the oral depositions of ten individuals (8/17/2020)
  • Figure Four Partners, LTD, PSWA, Inc., and Perry Homes, LLC moved to quash deposition notices and subpoenas duces tecum (subpoenas for documents) (8/18/2020)
  • Concourse Development, Rebel Contractors, LJA Engineering, and Texasite LLC made similar but separate motions (8/19/2020)
  • Plaintiffs’ move to compel depositions (8/20/2020)
  • Defendants then requested an emergency status conference to discuss the motion to compel.
  • Judge Lauren Reeder denied the emergency conference (8/24/2020)
  • Defendants then contacted the plaintiff to set up depositions (8/25/2020). Depositions for 7 of 10 defendant employees were set up
  • Plaintiff’s lawyers sent a letter to the court revoking the request to compel depositions for those 7 individuals (8/27/2020)
  • Figure Four Partners objected to defendants’ request for production of documents, arguing among other things that the defendants had not adequately defined the word “person.” (8/31/2020). The defendants requested, among other things to see the defendants’ (plural) Joint Defense Agreement.
  • Defendants fired off a blistering response the same day (8/31/2020). They argued that Figure Four previously admitted that defendants had a joint-defense agreement, that Figure Four was engaged in a “blatant attempt to mislead the court,” and that Figure Four had not found one mutually agreeable deposition date since April 1.

September Developments

Double Oak moved to transfer venue out of Harris County. They claimed third parties, not they, produced plaintiffs’ damages. (9/11/2020)

Plaintiffs filed “responses to the responses” of Double Oak, Rebel Contractors, Concourse Development, Figure Four, PSWA, and Perry Homes. Plaintiffs, for the most part, allege that defendants failed to be specific in their responses. For instance, when defendants’ alleged that plaintiffs’ damages were the result of prior or pre-existing conditions, they failed to specify what those pre-existing conditions were.

Defendants also alleged that, because they “acted with due care” and “complied with all applicable federal, state, and local law,” defendants’ claims should be barred. Plaintiffs took exception to that claim. They pointed out that defendants do not name “one statute, regulation, or common law requirement that they complied with so that Plaintiff’s claims would be barred.”

October Developments

On October 16, 2020, plaintiffs filed a seventh amended petition with 14 exhibits totaling 273 pages.

One of the major changes: the inclusion of “trespass” as a cause of action. Paragraph 54 under Count 7 on page 23 says, “A defendant commits trespass to real property where there is an ‘unauthorized entry upon the land of another, and may occur when one enters—or causes something to enter—another’s property.’” Barnes v. Mathis, 353 S.W.3d 760, 764 (Tex. 2011).

Other sections of the amended petition appear to have minor changes and updates that address issues raised to date during the case. Rather than try to summarize them all here, I’ll simply provide a link to the amended petition.

Separately, Figure Four objected to the subpoena duces tecum for Richard Hale. Defendants had requested his resume and legal documents to prepare for his deposition (10/19/2020). Lawyers for Figure Four claim Mr. Hale’s experience is not relevant. That seems to asking defendants to take a lot on faith! Figure Four lawyers also claim that by asking for papers that Mr. Hale used to prepare for his deposition that defendants are violating attorney/client privilege.

Figure Four also filed an objection to Taylor Gunn’s subpoena duces tecum. They claimed the subpoena wasn’t a subpoena, that his experience was not relevant, and that the request violated attorney/client privilege.

Rebel and Double Oak also objected to documents they were expected to produce, claiming they didn’t have enough notice (10/26/2020).

November, December Developments

In November, not much happened. Defendants filed documents showing that they had a “Rule 11” agreement with Concourse. rule 11 agreement refers to Rule 11 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedures. Rule 11 says that an agreement between lawyers in a case is enforceable if the agreement is: A) in writing and B) filed in the papers of the court or C) unless it be made in open court and entered in the record.

In December, LJA filed an objection and response to the plaintiffs’ subpoena duces tecum for Taylor Baumgartner. LJA also argued that the subpoena violated attorney/client privilege. However, Baumgartner agreed to bring his resume to the deposition.

Status of Depositions, Discovery, Start of Trial

Both sides have done significant written discovery. Estimates range upwards of 20,000 pages of documents produced to date.  Depositions reportedly started in late October. Lawyers will schedule more in January/February.

The trial still appears to be scheduled for the two weeks beginning September 20, 2021. But that could be pushed back by COVID concerns.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/2/2020

1191 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 440 since Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Elm Grove Lawsuit Names Perry, Concourse Development As New Defendants; Trial Delayed

Attorneys for owners of 304 flooded homes in Elm Grove have named Perry Homes, LLC and Concourse Development, LLC as additional defendants in their lawsuit. Plaintiff’s lawyers filed their 287-page, sixth amended petition on 6/16/2020. Today, they also filed a request for a new trial date of 3/1/2021.

For the complete 287-page filing, click here. For a summary, read below.

New Information May Tie Perry, Concourse Directly to Floods

Based on allegations made in the lawsuit, it appears that attorneys may now have evidence that Concourse (the developer of Woodridge Forest) was also part owner of Woodridge Village. Wording within the allegations also suggests that Perry Homes was directly involved in the actions of its subsidiaries PSWA and Figure Four Partners, which in turn were telling contractors what to do and not to do.

This is potentially good news for plaintiffs because companies, such as PSWA and Figure Four are only subsidiaries of Perry. Such subsidiaries often act as shell companies that shield the parent company from liability. With few assets, the subsidiaries simply declare bankruptcy if they lose a large lawsuit. Then, life goes on as normal for the parent company. However…

Both Perry Homes and Concourse Development have substantial assets. Perry claims to be close to a billion dollar company.

Concourse developed the adjacent Woodridge Forest, where Perry also built homes. It bought Woodridge Village land and then held it for six days before selling it to Perry. Evidently, they didn’t sell their entire interest. Before the May 7th flood, Concourse bragged about its role in Woodridge Village. But after the flood, the company removed all mentions of Woodridge from its web site.

Screen Capture from Concourse Development website before lawsuits filed.

Allegations in Sixth Amended Petition

The big news: The plaintiff’s sixth amended petition now names Perry and Concourse as additional defendants. Previous petitions named only Perry subsidiaries, contractors and LJA Engineering.

In the new petition, defendants allege that:

  • LJA used an outdated version of Montgomery County’s Drainage Criteria manual when it designed drainage for Woodridge Village.
  • Figure Four failed to properly review the plans, catch the error, oversee LJA, or make construction decisions.
  • As a group, Figure Four, PSWA, Perry Homes and Concourse (referred to as “Developer Defendants” in the amended petition) hired contractors and directed them to fill in existing creeks and drainage channels, and to remove a levee or berm on the south side of Taylor Gully that had previously protected Elm Grove. The existence of this berm was not mentioned in LJA’s engineering plans, they say.
  • Even after the first flood on May 7th, when developers were aware of the danger, they failed to take corrective actions that would have prevented the September 19th flood.
  • As a direct consequence of their actions and inactions, the developers flooded hundreds of homes in Elm Grove.
  • The inactions of Perry and Concourse following the May 7th flood justify punitive damages.

Key Elements of Agreement Between Developers

The petition also claims that the four developer defendants entered into an agreement that called for them to:

  • Make exhaustive or continuous on-site inspections to check the quality and quantity of work
  • Be responsible for the techniques and sequences of construction, and safety precautions
  • Take responsibility AND liability for the contractors’ failure to construct the project in accordance with the contract documents.

However, the plaintiffs also accuse the developer defendants (through negligence or omissions) of:

  1. Failing to make exhaustive or continuous on-site inspections to check the quality or quantity of the work
  2. Failing to properly monitor the techniques and sequences of construction or the safety precautions to ensure Elm Grove would not flood during construction
  3. Failing to ensure the contractors performed the construction work in accordance with the contract documents
  4. Failing to incorporate drainage studies prior to initiating construction on the Development
  5. Failing to properly direct and supervise the means, methods, and techniques of the sequence in which the contractors performed the work on the Development
  6. Removing drainage from the Development
  7. Removing a levee and/or berm from the Development
  8. Failing to implement a proper construction schedule
  9. Failing to follow the construction schedule
  10. Blocking the drainage channels
  11. Filling in existing drainage channels
  12. Failing to properly install box culverts
  13. Failing to create temporary drainage channels
  14. Failing to allow adequate drainage after construction
  15. Failing to install silt barriers
  16. Allowing the Development to force rainfall toward Plaintiffs’ homes’
  17. Diverting surface water towards Plaintiffs’ homes
  18. Failing to pay proper attention
  19. Failing to provide notice or warning
  20. Failing to have a proper rain event action plan
  21. Failing to have a proper storm water pollution prevention plan
  22. Failing to follow a proper storm water pollution prevention plan
  23. Failing to coordinate activities and/or conduct
  24. Failing to supervise the activities of the Development and engineering
  25. Failing to instruct in proper construction and/or drainage requirements
  26. Failing to train in proper construction and/or drainage requirements
  27. Failure to review engineering plans
  28. Failing to comply with the Terracon Consultants, Inc. geotechnical report
  29. Failing to construct the emergency release channel
  30. Failing to timely implement the detention ponds
  31. Allowing inadequate construction to take place
  32. Failing to hire an adequate engineer to implement the project plan
  33. Failing to protect runoff from flooding homes
  34. Failing to protect Elm Grove from flooding during construction.

Basis for Exemplary Damage Claim

Paragraph 42 contains some of the strongest language in the complaint. It alleges that the Developer Defendants knew of the risks, and both the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others. The complaint asserts, “These acts and omissions were more than momentary thoughtlessness, inadvertence, or error of judgment. Rather, the Developer Defendants had actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.”

“Such acts and/or omissions,” the paragraph continues, “were a proximate cause of the flooding and the resulting injuries and damages sustained by Plaintiffs. Accordingly, Plaintiffs hereby seek an award of exemplary damages.”

Having said all that, the plaintiffs seek BOTH ordinary and exemplary damages (defined below).

Location of plaintiffs’ flooded homes in relation to Perry/Concourse property.

8 Defendants, 9 Counts, 2 Floods, 3 Degrees of Negligence

Altogether, the petition alleges nine counts against eight defendants in two floods. Spelling out who is being sued for what and why involves a lot of overlap and redundancy. But some of the Counts specify subsets of defendants, floods, allegations and degrees of negligence. So you may want to read the entire document.

The petition splits the defendants into three groups: Contractors, Developers, and LJA Engineering, with specific charges against each. The basis for charges sometimes varies also. For instance, charges against LJA include (in addition to many of those above) failure to:

  • Adequately report the modeling
  • Use the correct hydrology method
  • Adequately model the development
  • Notify the developers and contractors of the importance of the existing berm.

Plaintiffs say LJA was aware of the risks, but nevertheless proceeded with willful and conscious indifference to the rights safety and welfare of the victims.

As a result, plaintiffs are suing LJA for negligence, negligence per se and gross negligence for BOTH floods.

Differences Between Degrees of Negligence

Black’s Law Dictionary describes the differences:

  • Negligence is the failure to do something which a reasonable and prudent man would do, or doing something which a reasonable and prudent man would not do.
  • Negligence Per Se is the form of negligence that results from violation of a statute. The violation of a public duty enjoined by law for the protection of people and property. So palpably opposed to the dictates of common prudence that no careful person would be guilty of it.
  • Gross Negligence is the intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another. It is a conscious and voluntary act of omission which is likely to result in grave injury when in the face of clear and present danger of which the defendant is aware.

Nuisance Claim

In addition to negligence, plaintiffs also claim nuisance…”When Defendants unlawfully diverted … water onto Plaintiffs’ homes.”

Black’s Law Dictionary defines nuisance as “…that activity which arises from unreasonable, unwarranted or unlawful use by a person of his own property, working obstruction or injury to right of another…and producing such material annoyance, inconvenience and discomfort that law will presume resulting damage.”

Seeking Damages, Exemplary/Punitive Damages

The ordinary damages, plaintiffs claim, consist of one or more of the following:

  1. Cost of repairs to real property;
  2. Cost of replacement or fair market value of personal property lost, damaged, or destroyed during such event;
  3. Loss of use of real and personal property;
  4. Diminution of market value of Plaintiffs’ properties;
  5. Loss of income and business income;
  6. Consequential costs incurred, inclusive of but not limited to alternative living conditions or accommodations and replacement costs;
  7. Mental anguish and/or emotional distress;
  8. Prejudgment interest;
  9. Post judgment interest;
  10. Attorneys’ fees
  11. Costs of Court.

However, as a result of alleged gross negligence, plaintiffs also seek exemplary damages as punishment. Black’s Law Dictionary defines exemplary damages as “Damages on an increased scale awarded to a plaintiff over and above actual or ordinary damages, where wrong done to a plaintiff was aggravated by circumstances of violence, oppression, malice, fraud, or wanton and wicked conduct.”

Defendants’ Responses Not Yet Filed

As of this writing, the Harris County District Clerk’s website does not show responses filed by either Perry or Concourse to new allegations.

March 1 Preferential Trial Date Requested

Because of the number of plaintiffs, expert witnesses, defendants and law firms involved in this case, the plaintiffs have requested a “preferential trial setting” of March 1, 2021. A preferential trial setting eliminates the possibility of numerous continuances due to scheduling conflicts between the court, parties, attorneys and witnesses.

The plaintiffs have also requested a proposed Amended Docket Control Order that shows alternative dispute resolution (mediation) happening on 1/29/2021.

Net: If the judge accepts the new timetable, it will likely be another 7 to 8 months before this case sees any resolution.

As new developments happen, read about them here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/19/2020

1025 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 274 since Imelda

Woodridge Village Update: More Dirt, Denials, Delays

Twenty-three days ago, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner read a letter to a packed town hall meeting at the Kingwood Community Center. The letter was from a lawyer named J. Carey Gray. Mr. Gray laid out a timetable for accelerating completion of the detention ponds on the troubled Perry Homes’ development, Woodridge Village, just north of Elm Grove. The first deliverable: completing the S2 pond in 30-45 days – even though it was already largely completed.

As of early this week, contractors have performed no new excavation work on the site since early August. See pictures below.

One Piece of Equipment Moves Closer to S2 Pond

This piece of Rebel Construction equipment moved from the site entrance to north of the S2 pond last Thursday. It looks as though its in danger of actually doing some work. Photo by Jeff Miller on 11/7/2019.

Dirt Continues to Flow From Construction Site

Construction has slowed to a virtual standstill for three months. Between that time and the time the photos below were taken, we had Imelda and a 2.12-inch rain on October 29.

On the 29th, yet more mud washed out of the development into the City’s storm drains, despite the City’s Cease and Desist Letter.

This and photos immediately below were taken on 10/29/2019 near Woodridge Village Construction entrance on Fair Grove Drive and Creek Manor Drive in Kingwood.
Dropping back a little farther, you can see the silty runoff from the construction site. Notice the contrast between that and the clear water coming from a resident’s lawn through the curb break.
Contrast appears a little clearer in this closeup.
You can see the contrast even better where the water enters this storm drain. Muddy water is coming from the construction site. Clear water from the neighborhood to the south.
These sand waves covered Fair Grove Drive just outside the construction site entrance...despite silt fencing.
Here’s a picture of water going into the S2 Detention pond at the north end of Village Springs Drive.
And here it is coming out of S2 into Taylor Gully. S2 is behind the trees on the left. This shot is looking north.

Of course, flooding, not sediment is the real issue in Elm Grove. However, sediment can block storm drains and contribute to flooding. That’s why the City has an ordinance prohibiting discharges of sediment into the City’s sewer system. It’s one area where the City has real leverage with the Perry gang. That’s why so much emphasis has been placed on sediment in this controversy.

City Inspectors Visit Site

Thursday and again Friday, City inspectors checked the construction site for discharges. We dodged a huge bullet Thursday. Parts of Houston received five inches of rain. But the Lake Houston Area received less than one inch.

Photo taken 11/7/2019 by Jeff Miller of a City Inspector photographing Woodridge S2 detention pond.
Photo taken 11/7/2019 by Jeff Miller shows same City Inspector walking along Taylor Gully just south of Woodridge.

Denials, Finger Pointing, Objections on Legal Front

Webster and Spurlock, lawyers for hundreds of Elm Grove flood victims, have brought another defendant into the suit. It is Texasite LLC of Montgomery, Texas. Legal filings do not describe exactly what the new defendant did on site. The company has no web site that I can find. Even the Texas Secretary of State can’t shed much light on the matter; the company’s Certificate of Formation simply says it is organized to “conduct lawful business.”

That said, whatever they allegedly did, they aren’t accepting responsibility for it. Texasite:

  • Denies they harmed anyone
  • Asserts that plaintiffs caused their own injuries through negligence
  • Asserts that third parties caused the damage. Those third parties include God.

In other legal news, Webster and Spurlock filed a notice of intent to take a deposition by written questions from LJA Engineering. The list of information they seek is two pages long.

PSWA and Figure Four Partners, two Perry Homes subsidiaries being sued, objected to items #2 and #3 on the list. They included “letters, emails, and other correspondence/communications between LJA Engineering & Surveying” and the defendants “with regard to the Woodridge Village Development.” The defendants argued in their objection that the request was overly broad because it didn’t limit the time period or subject matter. So sayeth Counselor J. Carey Gray, who wrote the overly vague letter to the City of Houston re: completion of the detention ponds. According to documents on file with the Harris County District Clerk, the judge has not yet ruled on Perry’s objection to production of the evidence.

Delays Also Continue on Construction of More Detention

I flew over the Woodridge Village construction site on Monday, 11/4 and saw no evidence of construction activity, despite the assurances made by Counselor Gray. The images below show the lack of activity from several different angles.

Looking N at the extreme western tail of the construction site that borders Woodland Hills Drive (left). This and all photos below taken on 11/4/2019.
Looking NE across the north and south sections of the site. Detention pond S1 runs along the diagonal tree line from the lower left. Detention Pond N2 is in the upper right. These two ponds comprise 23% of the total detention capacity by volume.
Detention pond N3 is supposed to go along the trees in the background to the left of the S2 pond. It has not been started yet. Notice the one piece of yellow equipment at work clearcutting more land on the middle left.
Close up of where the N3 pond will eventually go. It will start in the bottom left and curl around the upper right.
Looking west. No construction activity on the northeast corner of the site in the foreground.
From this angle, looking SW, it’s easy to see all the standing water on the site. We received two inches of rain SIX days before. So much for LJA’s assumption that this site contained sandy loam. The ponding water after such a long period suggests a high clay content. That in turn explains the rapid and huge runoff rates that flooded Elm Grove.
More ponding water indicating high clay content.
Looking west at the NW corner of the site. This is where the non-existent N1 pond should be.
Looking North. The largest detention pond on the site, N2, will go in that triangular green area (center). Contractors were supposed to deepen and enlarge it. The partial detention capacity you see here now was developed by Montgomery County in 2006 as mitigation for another site. So the detention capacity you see in this image, by itself, would not reduce Elm Grove flooding potential. Saying it did would be like trying to sell a ticket that someone else already bought.

I’m Shocked, Shocked I Tell You

So what are we to make of the continued lack of construction activity? To paraphrase the exchange between Strasser and Renault in the movie Casablanca, I am shocked – SHOCKED – Perry would promise the Mayor of Houston that it would accelerate construction of new detention ponds and then not do it.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/9/2019, with photos an updates from Jeff Miller.

802 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 50 Days since Imelda

The 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.

Judge Sets July 2020 Trial Date in Flood Case

Judge Lauren Reeder of the 234th Judicial District Court has set the trial date in the Elm Grove/North Kingwood Forest flooding case for July 13, 2020.

Background of Case

On May 7th of this year, heavy rains fell on 268 acres that had been clear cut by subsidiaries of Perry Homes (PSWA, Inc. and Figure Four Partners LTD.) and their contractors. Contractors working on the new development, Woodridge Forest, had not yet installed detention ponds to control the runoff. Approximately 200 homes flooded during the rain event.

Video shows that much of the water flowed down streets near Taylor Gully instead of flowing into the gully itself at a controlled rate as it should have. The defendants blamed the flooding on God. But the hydrology report prepared by LJA Engineering showed that the detention ponds in the development should have held more than a foot of rain, far more than actually fell that day. One issue in the case may be whether the developer acted negligently by clearcutting so much acreage before installing adequate detention.

Schedule Between Now and Trial Date

The docket control order issued by Judge Reeder also lays out the general order of events in the case. On or before:

  • 12/16/2019, all parties to the case must be added and served, a legal process called “joinder.” Inviters this case, more than 200 individual plaintiffs are suing the defendants. Interestingly, the defendants do not yet include the parent company, Perry Homes, or LJA Engineering Inc., the company that designed the development and its detention systems.
  • 4/13/2020, all expert witnesses for parties seeking affirmative relief must be named.
  • 5/13/2020, all other expert witnesses must be named.
  • 6/12/2020, the court will hold a status conference to discuss discovery limitations and alternative dispute resolution (i.e., mediation). The discover period ends on 6/12. All pleadings, amendments and challenges to expert testimony must also be heard by this date.

On 6/29/20 at 1:30 pm, Judge Reeder has scheduled a docket call at which all parties to the case must be prepared to discuss every aspect of the case.

Judge Reeder also tentatively scheduled the trial for 7/13/2020.

To see the entire original docket order, click here.

Woodridge Village Construction Continues

Construction on the Woodridge Village development will continue during the pre-trial phase. This has some residents concerned. While the construction of detention ponds is encouraging, any flaws in the construction of the engineering plans will be set in concrete before the case goes to trial. If there are flaws, that could affect flooding for years to come.

Jeff Miller, an Elm Grove resident, reports that two more culverts have been added to Taylor Gulley where it bisects the northern and southern portions of Woodridge Village.

Video Courtesy of Jeff Miller. To play, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on July 25, 2019 with help from Bill Fowler and Jeff Miller

695 days after Hurricane Harvey

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 U.S. Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the great State of Texas.

Only 23% of Woodridge Village Detention Ponds Now Functional

One month into the 2019 hurricane season, only about 23 percent of the Woodridge Village Detention Ponds have been substantially excavated and have outflow control devices installed. At the time of the May 7th Elm Grove flood, that percentage was only 9 percent. So in a little less than 2 months, Rebel Contractors has more than doubled the percentage completed. However, as we head toward the peak of hurricane season, approximately three quarters of the detention capacity remains unexcavated, dysfunctional, or both.

Contractors also have yet to finish grading, planting, and cementing portions of the ponds that they have excavated.

Only 2 of 5 Detention Ponds Substantially Excavated

The first phase of the 268-acre Woodridge Village shows a total of 4 detention ponds. But Rebel Contractors has excavated only two on the southern end so far: S1 and S2.

Together they provide a total of 49 acre-feet of storage. Pond N1 has not yet been excavated and Pond N2 does not yet have an outflow control device that will retain the water upstream from Elm Grove.

Detention for Phase 1 of Woodridge Village

In Phase 1, Pond N2, has no additional excavation. Existing excavation was done by Montgomery County starting in 2006. The county removed approximately 3-4 feet of dirt in a 20 acre area. Ultimately, N2 will be the largest pond in the development with 154.7 acre feet of detention. Note: the figures quoted below differ slightly from those I quoted earlier because LJA Engineers presents conflicting data in its Drainage Impact Analysis for Montgomery County. See pages 7 and 54.

Ultimate Detention for Woodridge Village from Page 7 of the document titled Report Addendum-2027-1002. N2 currently covers about 10 acres to a depth of 6-8 feet. However, it will be enlarged and deepened so that it holds 154.7 acre feet. That’s more than half of all the detention on the property.

Ultimately, the 5 ponds will have a total of 271 acre feet of storage. An acre foot covers one acre to a depth of one foot. So the five ponds will hold a little more than one foot of rainfall per acre of development.

Woodridge Village Detention by Pond in Ultimate Phase

That means, 12 inches of water should be able to fall on the entire development without flooding any adjoining properties. But with only 23% of detention functional (S2 – green, and S1 – blue), that 12 inches of detention is effectively reduced to 3 inches right now.

How Much is Functional and Where?

The bullet points and pie chart below summarize the total storage and current status of each pond as of July 1, 2019. The figures for acre-feet are taken from the map above representing the ultimate phase of development.

  • N1 = 13.2 acre feet (not started)
  • N2 = 154.7 acre feet (started by Montgomery County circa 2002, but is not fully excavated, nor is there any outflow control device installed to detain water upstream of Elm Grove)
  • N3 = 42 acre feet (does not appear to be started)
  • S1 = 18.6 acre feet (mostly functioning, but not fully finished)
  • S2 = 42.5 acre feet (mostly functioning, but not fully finished)
  • Total detention when complete = 271 acre feet
  • Total detention not functional as of July 1, 2019 = 77%

Photos and Video of S2 as of End of June 2019

Jeff Miller shot his video of S2, the pond immediately north of Village Springs in Elm Grove. It shows what progress looked like at the end of June. The pond has been widened by sloping the sides even more since the last update.

Video of Woodridge Village Detention Pond S2 shot from north of Village Springs in Elm Grove at end of June. Courtesy of Jeff Miller.
This shot, also by Jeff Miller, gives you a sense of the scale of the S2 detention pond. Remember, as large as it looks, it’s only designed to hold 16% of the runoff above it.
Taylor Gulley below the concrete box culvert that controls the outflow from S2 is becoming badly silted. Those openings are each supposed to be 10′ x 6′. They look far less than that right now because of the sediment.

N2 Will Contain More than Half of All Detention

Google Earth image showing the triangular shaped N2 detention area in March of 2011. This land was partially excavated by Montgomery County circa 2006-2012. The developer plans to widen and deepen it, but has not done so yet.
Google Earth image showing same area in February of 2019. According to MCAD-tx.org, Montgomery County still owns the triangular area that will become Detention Pond N2.
This is what N2 looked like at the end of May. It had not changed since the May 7th flood.
N2 from the reverse angle looking south on 7/1/19. Still no appreciable change.

N1 – Still No Excavation

This is where the N1 detention pond should be on the north section near the Webb Street entrance. No excavation in sight.

N3 – Still No Excavation Visible

Likewise, no excavation is visible near where the N3 pond should be.

Much More to Come Per Hydrologist’s Report

In Phase 1, Figure Four, a subsidiary of PSWA and Perry Homes, will develop 30 acres in the northern section and 58 acres in southern section. Ponds N1, S1 and S2 are to be built during this phase.

The hydrologist notes that a portion of N2 is already in place (although there is nothing there yet to detain the water upstream from Elm Grove). She also notes that:

  • N2 will be widened during the Ultimate phase
  • A pilot channel within N2 and  the E-W channel immediately downstream will be graded during Phase 1 to provide flow-line continuity with other proposed structures.
  • A concrete lined channel on the eastern side of the subdivision will be extended 150′ between the E-W junction and a 36″ plastic pipe.

Much work remains before their tables and charts on water flow can be used.

Remember, per their own report, the larger portion of Woodridge Village is in the north. It comprises two thirds of the development and the ground there slopes 10 times greater than the southern portion. (1 degree vs.  0.1 degrees).

The Woods are Gone, But We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

As Elm Grove resident Jeff Miller said, “It sure seems to me that once they clear cut the north, that the potential for flooding rose exponentially.”

Let’s see!

  • More clear-cut area.
  • No functional detention.
  • Sloping toward Elm Grove.
  • And only one fourth of the total detention installed on the southern section.

I would agree.

As we approach the second anniversary of Harvey in 7 weeks, everybody on the periphery of this development is on edge…no pun intended.

Montgomery County needs development rules that protect neighbors from such development practices.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/1/19 with help from Jeff Miller

671 Days since Hurricane Harvey

All thoughts expressed in this post are matters of opinion and safety involving public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

More than 40 Additional Plaintiffs Join Webster, Spurlock Lawsuits Against Woodridge Developers and Contractor for May 7th Flooding

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.

New development slopes toward Elm Grove on right.

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