Tag Archive for: webster

Elm Grove Lawsuits Settled!

Jason Webster, lead attorney for hundreds of Elm Grove, North Kingwood Forest and Porter plaintiffs in lawsuits arising from two floods in 2019, confirmed for ReduceFlooding.com that the defendants have reached a settlement agreement with plaintiffs. Defendants in the Elm Grove lawsuits included Perry Homes; Figure Four Partners LTD.; PSWA, Inc; LJA Engineering; Double Oak Construction, Inc.; Rebel Contractors, Inc.; Texasite, LLC; and Concourse Development, LLC.

Settlement Comes Two Years After Second Flood

Confirmation of the settlement comes almost two years to the day after sheet flow from Woodridge Village flooded Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest for the second time in five months.

Elm Grove debris pile from Imelda, two days after sheet flow from Woodridge Village flooded the area.

Webster says the settlement agreement prohibits disclosure of the terms, but he did say that it was “…resolved to our satisfaction.” Webster says he and co-counsel Kimberley Spurlock, who also represented plaintiffs in the lawsuits, “…still have to communicate with the clients on this and we have not done so yet as far as amounts. That has to be determined by a special master which has been appointed to administer the settlement.”

However, Webster added, “All plaintiffs who participated in the lawsuit will receive a settlement offer.”

Hints of Movement Toward an Agreement in Early August

I first caught wind of a potential settlement from updates to the Harris County District Clerks’ website when Webster and Spurlock moved to establish an Elm Grove Settlement Fund and appoint a Master-in-Chancery in early August. Then, on August 16, Judge Lauren Reeder approved both the Fund and the Chancery motions. However, two defendants, LJA and Rebel, still objected. Interestingly, the Rebel objection contained a reference that it was not a party to a global settlement with the other defendants.

Then yesterday, an unsigned trial preparation order showed up on the District Clerk’s website. I emailed Webster and later that day, he confirmed the settlement.

Motion to set trial was to be heard on 9/20/2021. That should no longer be necessary.

Facing a trial on the merits of the case often brings defendants to the settlement table when they realize delays are no longer possible. I have been on jury panels for several cases over the years. Interestingly, in every single instance, the defendants chose to settle when the jury panel walked into the room to begin the selection process.

The settlement should come as a welcome relief for many plaintiffs who were devastated financially by the repeat floods.

Elm Grove activist Jeff Miller had this to say about the settlement. “I am thrilled for those that suffered greatly and hope that this settlement will discourage future negligence by bad actors.” 

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/10/2021

1473 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 722 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.

Webster, Spurlock Add Storm Water Solutions to Lawsuit for Elm Grove Plaintiffs

On December 17, 2020, Jason Webster and Kimberley Spurlock, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the 2019 Elm Grove lawsuits, added a ninth defendant in their eighth amended petition. The defendant is Storm Water Solutions, LLC at 16110 Hollister Street in Houston.

Complete List of Defendants

Defendants now include:

  • Developers:
    • Perry Homes, LLC
    • Figure Four Partners, LTD
    • PSWA, Inc.
    • Concourse Development, LLC
  • Contractors:
    • Rebel Contractors, Inc.
    • Double Oak Construction, Inc.
    • Texasite LLC
  • LJA Engineering, Inc.
  • Storm Water Solutions, LLC

Who Was Responsible for What and When

The eighth amended petition provides an overview of who allegedly did what and when, before Elm Grove flooded on May 7th and September 19th last year when water from Woodridge Village invaded Elm Grove and flooded up to 600 homes.

The developer defendants hired LJA, which had prepared the drainage plans for Woodridge Village, to prepare bid documents, plans and specifications, all of which required a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) for all potential contractors. The developer defendants and LJA, through the municipal utility district, hired Rebel, Double Oak, and Texasite. Rebel and Double Oak then obtained the necessary permits for the SWPPP.

Bombshell Allegations

Here’s where it gets interesting. Sometime after that, the developers hired Storm Water Solutions to implement the SWPPP. However, they allegedly told Rebel and Double Oak that they did not have to comply with the specifications in the SWPPP.

The southern part of Woodridge Village on May 9 from a drone. Elm Grove is on left. Note lack of any perimeter sediment controls. Screen capture from Jim Zura video.

One day after the May 7th flood, the developers hired Concourse to inspect the detention ponds on the development. Plaintiffs allege that Concourse did not advise the developer defendants to makes any changes. The plaintiffs also contend that ALL defendants failed to comply with the SWPPP. The TCEQ cited both Rebel and Double Oak for violations of their permits after the May 7th flood for failure to install sediment controls.

The suit alleges that the developer defendants failed to supervise and ensure Storm Water Solutions complied with the SWPPP.

Twin culverts at the county line were severely constricted by sediment after the May 7th flood. Note lack of sediment controls such as gabions (wire baskets filled with rock).

Specific Allegations against Storm Water Solutions in Lawsuit

Storm Water Solutions website claims the company provides “complete storm water regulatory compliance to land developers, commercial and residential builders, general contractors, and utility districts.”

But in Count 10, Paragraph 76, the suit charges Storm Water Solutions with Negligence, Negligence Per Se and Gross Negligence for both the May and September floods. Specifically, the alleged negligence includes failing to:

  1. Create an adequate storm water pollution prevention plan;
  2. Implement a storm water pollution prevention plan;
  3. Comply or follow the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan;
  4. Install reinforced filter fabric fences around the Development;
  5. Install adequate reinforced filter fabric fences around the Development;
  6. Comply with Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Construction General Permit No. TXR150000;
  7. Supervise the Contractor Defendants’ compliance with the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan;
  8. Enforce the provisions of the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan;
  9. Enforce and/or implement the best management practices under the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan for the Development;
  10. Implement the proper control measures on the Development;
  11. Ensure a sedimentation basin was constructed at the Development;
  12. Inspect the Development for failure to comply with the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan;
  13. Modify the best management practices after the May 7, 2019 occurrence;
  14. Comply with the plans and specifications for the Development;
  15. Pay proper attention;
  16. Provide notice or warning; and,
  17. Coordinate activities and/or conduct.

It also alleges they allowed:

  1. Storm water runoff into Plaintiffs’ properties;
  2. Discharge of storm water from the Development.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan Requirements, Objectives

The EPA provides this easy to follow document about what a SWPPP should include. SWPPP requirements include a site map, description of pollutant sources, controls to reduce pollutants, and maintenance and inspection procedures. Plans should also describe who:

  • Is on the stormwater pollution prevention team?
  • Will install structural stormwater controls?
  • Will supervise and implement good housekeeping programs, such as site cleanup and disposal of trash and debris, hazardous material management and disposal, vehicle and equipment maintenance, and so on?
  • Will conduct routine inspections of the site to ensure all BMPs are being implemented and maintained?
  • Will maintain the BMPs?
  • Is responsible for documenting changes to the SWPPP?
  • Is responsible for communicating changes in the SWPPP to people working on the site?
State of the S2 detention pond on May 9, 2019.

Plan objectives typically include:

  • Site stabilization ASAP
  • Protecting slopes and channels
  • Promoting infiltration of stormwater
  • Controlling the perimeter of the site
  • Protecting receiving waters adjacent to the site (Taylor Gully)
  • Following pollution prevention measures.
  • Minimizing the area and duration of exposed soils.
The southern part of Woodridge Village on May 9 from the ground.

For the complete text of the Eighth Amended Petition, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/25/2020 with thanks to Jim Zura

1214 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 461 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

More Dirt on Perry Homes

Ken Matthews lives in a one-story house on Shady Maple Drive in Elm Grove about a block below the troubled Woodridge Village development in Montgomery County. Homes on Shady Maple Drive experienced severe damage during both the May 7th and September 19th storms. That damage has been linked to this development.

“Had I Waited One More Minute…”

Between 8 and 9 o’clock a.m. on September 19th, Matthews saw water rising quickly in front of his home. He made a split-second decision to evacuate his wife and child. By the time he packed them in his car, they barely escaped. Water filled the street that quickly. He said, “Had I waited one more minute, we would not have gotten out.”

Matthews had just moved back into his house days before. They had lived with a friend for months while finishing repairs from the May 7th flood. He and his family went to the same friend’s house to wait out the September 19th storm.

The Clear-Cut Difference

Clear-cutting accelerates the rate of run-off, contributes to flooding, and increases sedimentation as you can see in this video. Virtually the entire 268-acre Woodridge site had been clearcut by mid-August when work on the site mysteriously ground to a halt. But only about about a quarter of the detention ponds had been installed before September 19th – despite a more than a month of ideal construction weather before Imelda.

Video from Jeff Miller’s security camera several blocks east shows his street filling up with clear water at the same time Matthews evacuated. However, a short while later, at exactly 10:10 a.m., a wave of chocolate brown muddy water came cascading down the street in a sudden surge. That much muck could only have come from one place: Woodridge Village. With only 25% of the detention installed, 75% of the runoff had to go somewhere else. It went into the streets of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest.

When Matthews returned home, he found a thick layer of silt in his mailbox of all places.
Perry Homes’ check wasn’t in the mail, but apparently their dirt was.

Matthews said he did not join the lawsuit against Perry Homes subsidiaries and contractors after May 7th. However, he does plan to join the suit now. His home has just been wiped out for the second time in four months.

Even More Dirt

If you want to find more dirt on Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors, just go to the north end of Village Springs Drive next to Woodridge.

Dried muck at the end of Village Springs Drive next to Woodridge (beyond the silt fence in the background) reaches over the curbs.
Video shows muddy water flowing out of Woodridge at this location on 9/19/19. Photo taken on 10/4/19.

Significantly, Perry Homes has not lifted a finger to help the residents of Elm Grove. Instead it is suing them. This ranks as a new low in the annals of American corporate history.

Harris County Stormwater Rules Discourage Clearcutting Giant Sites All at Once

What do best practices in the development industry have to say about clearing such large sites all at once?

Harris County Stormwater Quality Management regulations discourage clearcutting giant sites like Woodridge Village all at once. See section, Stormwater Pollution Prevention (SWPPP) During Construction. The text states, “The clearing, grubbing and scalping (mass clearing or grading) of excessively large areas of land at one time promotes erosion and sedimentation problems. On the areas where disturbance takes place the site designer should consider staging construction [emphasis added], temporary seeding and/or temporary mulching as a technique to reduce erosion. Staging construction involves stabilizing one part of the site before disturbing another [emphasis added].

Of course, these are Harris County regulations and Woodridge Village sits in Montgomery County. Montgomery County has no comparable regulations posted on its website as far as I can tell.

Construction Sequencing Not Addressed In Construction Plans

Section 4.2.5 of the same Harris County document addresses Construction Sequencing. This section states, “The construction drawings should clearly state the designer’s intentions and an appropriate sequence of construction should be shown on the plans. This sequence should then be the topic of a detailed discussion at the pre-construction meeting (that must include the on-site responsible construction personnel) and then enforced by an appropriate inspection program throughout the construction period.”

That didn’t happen in Montgomery County either.

Another Conflict of Interest for LJA Engineering?

LJA Engineering plans that have become public to date do not address the sequencing of construction except for Phase 1 and Phase 2. (Curiously, they started Phase 2 first.) Nor was there adequate supervision during the months before May 7th. No sediment control measures, such as silt fencing, had been installed before then.

That’s a shame. Perhaps if they did, hundreds of homes may not have flooded on September 19th.

While searching the Montgomery County site for stormwater regulations, I was reminded that LJA Engineering manages the stormwater program and reporting for Montgomery County. LJA Engineering developed the plans for Woodridge Village, yet another apparent conflict of interest. LJA Engineering’s stamps are all over the hydrology plans for this development, too.

Perry Homes Gang Still Stalling Lawsuit, But Some Hope

Meanwhile, the Perry Homes gang is still stalling the Webster-Spurlock law suit against them. Two weeks after the judge in the case heard arguments in the motion to compel discovery, she still has not made a ruling.

However, there was some movement in the case last week. Lawyers for both sides agreed to keep all documents and depositions obtained during discovery confidential. Perry’s subsidiaries and contractors may have material that would embarrass the parent company if it became public. The court documents refer to “protecting trade secrets.” That sounds like convenient cover to me. How many trade secrets can there be about bulldozing dirt?

The intent of the order seems to be to keep documents away from the watchful eyes of the media, such as ReduceFlooding.com. On the plus side, though, lawyers tell me that sometimes such agreements may be a prelude to settlement talks. If this moves the case forward, I’m all for it. The flood victims desperately need help.

Posted by Bob Rehak on October 5, 2019

767 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 16 since Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public interest 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.

Update on Webster, Spurlock Elm Grove Lawsuits; Woodridge Construction

A defendant’s motion to dismiss more than 200 lawsuits brought by two local lawyers, Jason Webster and Kimberly Spurlock, on behalf of flooded Elm Grove residents has been tabled by agreement of the lawyers involved. A hearing on the motion to dismiss was scheduled for Monday, July 15th at 4PM in Harris County Judge Lauren Reeder’s 234th Judicial District Court.

Background: Lawsuits and Motion to Dismiss

Here’s a brief chronology of events in the case to date:

Motion to Consolidate, Change Venue and Counterclaims

That same day (June 17):

On June 24, 2019, the lawyers for both sides agreed to consolidate the cases and Judge Reeder signed an order consolidating them.

On June 27th, the plaintiffs filed a request to enter the defendant’s property to inspect it.

Plaintiffs’ Response to Motion to Dismiss

July 8 – Defendants responded to the plaintiff’s motion to dismiss the case(s). They cited the facts that they were NOT suing LJA Engineers, nor were they alleging any defect in their engineering plans or designs. Their claims, they said, related solely to construction practices. Specifically, they cited:

  • a. Blocking the drainage channels;
  • b. Filling in existing drainage channels;
  • c. Failing to properly install box culverts;
  • d. Failing to create temporary drainage channels;
  • e. Failing to allow adequate drainage after construction;
  • f. Failing to install silt barriers;
  • g. Allowing the Development to force rainfall toward Plaintiffs’ homes;
  • h. Failing to pay proper attention;
  • i. Failing to provide notice or warning; the filling in of creeks
  • j. Failing to have a proper rain event action plan;
  • k. Failing to have a proper storm water pollution prevention plan;
  • l. Failing to follow a proper storm water pollution prevention plan;
  • m. Failing to coordinate activities and/or conduct;
  • n. Failing to supervise the activities of the Development;
  • o. Failing to instruct in proper construction and/or drainage requirements;
  • p. Failing to train in proper construction and/or drainage requirements,
  • q. Failing to construct the emergency release channel; and,
  • r. Failing to timely implement the detention ponds.

On that same day, July 8, Webster and Spurlock filed an amended petition specifying points A-R above.

Lawyers Agree to Table Motion to Dismiss … Subject to Conditions

Last Friday, July 12, the lawyers for both plaintiffs and defendants filed a Rule 11 Agreement. It specifies that Figure Four and PSWA “pass” the scheduled July 15th hearing on the motion to dismiss, but retain their right to refile under certain conditions.

No Rulings Yet on Venue, Access or Trial Date

Judge Reeder has not yet ruled on the change of venue motion or access to the property. Nor has she set a trial date.

Meanwhile, Back at the Construction Site…

Meanwhile, construction on the job site in the last week continued but at a slower pace. According to Elm Grove resident Jeff Miller who has closely monitored construction progress:

  • Rebel Contractors widened a ditch leading down the eastern side of the development adjacent to North Kingwood Forest.
  • They deepened the channel connecting that ditch with the S2 detention pond.
  • The installed culverts under a road that will connect the north and south sides of the project.
  • They continued clearing land, moving dirt and building up portions of the northern section.

Culverts being installed under future road, but not yet functioning
More culverts ready to install under future roads
Future roadway with 3-4 story brush piles in background
More brush piles near future road

No More Obvious Progress on Expansion of Detention Capacity

It appears that no additional detention ponds have yet been excavated beyond S2, according to Miller. Therefore, my last estimate of approximately 25% completion of detention has not changed.

Had Hurricane Barry dropped the kind of water here that it did on Louisiana and Mississippi, Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest residents would almost surely have flooded again.

LJA Engineers designed the onsite detention to hold a little more than a foot of rainfall. But with only an estimated 25% of the detention functioning at this point, 3″ of water could produce another flood (assuming my estimate is accurate).

Posted by Bob Rehak on July 15, 2019

685 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 9 weeks since May 7

All thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public interest and safety. 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

93% of Flood-Damaged Homes in Kingwood and Forest Cove Are Near Area Clearcut by Figure Four Partners

I spent four hours driving around Kingwood and Forest Cove this afternoon counting flood-damaged homes from the heavy rains last week. I counted a total of 211. Of those, 196 were in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. That means 93% were near the 262 acres that Figure Four Partners clearcut for its new development in Montgomery County.

Approximate area where vast majority of damage occurs. Arrow represents direction of drainage from lower third of Figure Four Partners’ new development.

The remaining 15 homes appeared to be isolated, low-lying homes or homes with blocked drains. Only four of those in Woodland Hills and Bear Branch appeared related to creek or ditch flooding. The rest were scattered around Kingwood and Forest Cove.

Breakdown by Location

Here’s the breakdown of what I could find … in descending order.

  • Elm Grove – 175
  • North Kingwood Forest – 21
  • Bear Branch – 5
  • Forest Cove – 4
  • Woodland Hills – 3
  • Trailwood – 2
  • Kings Forest – 1

Most damaged homes outside of Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest appeared to be isolated instances in low-lying areas. In two places, I saw two damaged homes next to each other.

I could only find four homes (plus the St. Martha school and Kids in Action) that flooded near Bens Branch. Bens Branch is another stream about the size of Taylor Gully and not far from it.

I expected to find many more flooded homes near Bens Branch. But after going down dozens of cul-de-sacs and finding no damage, I abandoned that search.

Massive Concentration Raises Legal Questions

The concentration of damage within a few blocks of Figure Four Partners’ 262 clearcut acres will certainly raise legal issues for the developer and its contractors. So does the fact that all the other creeks in the Kingwood and Forest Cove area put together did not flood more than six homes/businesses that I could see. Several law firms are already reportedly filing law suits on behalf of flood victims. More on that later.

Figures Understated

These numbers may be understated because I may have missed some homes where trash had already been picked up. I was looking for the tell-tale wallboard residue in grass where people had piled sheetrock, but trash crews were doing a pretty good job.

Social media reported damage in Hunters Ridge, Sherwood Trails, Kings Mill and Kings Point. But I did not see the damage. If someone flooded in these areas, please send me your address through the contact form on this web site and I will update the count.

Also, I have not yet ventured to Atascocita, Huffman, or Porter. More on those areas in a subsequent post.

People on ten streets in Porter reported damage; all streets appear to be close to the new development, but I have not verified the proximity of damaged homes on those streets to the clearcut area. That 93% figure could rise or fall depending on what I find in Porter.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/14/2019, with thanks to Regan McMahon-Cohen for compiling a list of streets and neighborhoods from social media

623 Days since Hurricane Harvey

All conclusions expressed in this post are opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas and the First Amendment of the US Constitution.