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Thousands of Michigan residents were displaced from their homes, faced major property damage and/or other losses due to the Michigan Dam breaks at Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam. Initial reports speculate that dam maintenance, operator errors, and negligence could have factored into this tragedy. If you, your family, or loved ones suffered losses due to the Edenville Dam failure or Sanford Dam failure, you may be entitled to participate in the Michigan flooding lawsuit. Contact a Michigan flooding lawyer to discuss your legal options today, no-obligation and free of charge.
TorHoerman Law has experienced flooding lawyers and dam break lawyers who have litigated flooding lawsuits. Contact TorHoerman Law to talk to our experienced flooding lawsuit team today.
Thousands of homes and businesses in Central Michigan flooded in May 2020 after the failure of two local dams. Nearly 11,000 residents of Midland, Michigan, evacuated their homes after the Edenville and Sanford Dams collapsed, causing the Tittabawassee River to flood the city. While no deaths or serious injuries were reported, the flooding left a devastating financial and mental impact on the community. Michigan flooding lawsuits are being filed in federal court to hold the dam companies, owners, and the state of Michigan accountable.
On Tuesday, May 19, 2020, the National Weather Service urged residents living near Central Michigan’s Tittabawassee River and connected lakes to seek higher ground after “catastrophic dam failures” caused historic flooding across the region. AP News reported that failures at the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam forced over 10,000 residents out of their homes. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Midland County; downtown Midland, a city of 42,000 residents that sits about 8 miles from Sanford Dam, was predicted to be 9 feet underwater within a day. Evacuations included the cities of Midland, Sanford, and Edenville.
The Edenville Dam failed in the late afternoon of Tuesday, May 19, 2020. The dam sits in Edenville Township at the border of Midland and Gladwin counties about 140 miles north of Detroit on the Tittabawassee River. The dam’s owners reported that high winds and heavy rains combined to create wave action in the river that saturated an earth dike and washed out nearly 900 feet of the dam. The dam’s failure caused water to move over and around another dam further down river, the Sanford Dam, causing it to breach later in the day.
The Sanford Dam, sitting about seven miles downriver from the Edenville Dam, failed later on Tuesday afternoon. The dam was overwhelmed following the failure of the Edenville Dam, leading to overwhelming flooding across the region. The city of Midland, home to Dow Chemical Co.’s main plant, sits eight miles downstream from the Sanford Dam. The dam’s failure caused severe flooding across Midland and the plant.
The Edenville and Sanford Dams failed because they were overwhelmed by water. For two days, over five inches of rain fell contributing to the rise of the already-saturated Tittabawassee River. While the excess water is the culprit, the dams were also outdated and deficient. Officials and residents cited concerns over maintenance and operational failures that left the dams susceptible to collapsing.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers classified both the Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam as a “high” hazard potential, meaning that the dams’ failures had potential for a significant loss of life. CBS News reported that Boyce Hydro Power, the company that owns both dams, repeatedly violated regulatory standards and failed to properly maintain the dams. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the company failed to complete necessary improvement, did not file adequate public safety plans, performed unauthorized earth moving and repairs, and violated recreation facility maintenance.
Boyce Hydro Power and its co-manager Lee Mueller faced scrutiny over handling of the Edenville Dam and its surrounding bodies of water. Two weeks prior to the Dam’s collapse, Michigan’s attorney general sued Mueller and the company for allegedly illegally opening the Dam’s gates for an extended period in 2018 and 2019 to draw down the levels of Wixom Lake by eight feet. The drawdowns were not authorized by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources or the Department of Environment Great Lakes & Energy. The company was given approval to raise lake levels back to normal in April of 2020.
A month after the raising of Wixon Lake (see above), the Edenville Dam failed. Boyce Hydro Power, the owners of the Dam, claimed that the state of Michigan pressured them to raise Wixon Lake’s water levels. Boyce’s owner Lee Mueller applied for a permit to raise the lake levels and was approved by state regulators.
Central Michigan received heavy rain throughout May. The National Weather Service issued flood warnings the week of the Dams’ failure following widespread rainfall of 4 to 7 inches. Earlier storms and heavy rainfall pushed the Tittabawassee River above its usual levels. The rivers flood stage is 24 feet. On the Tuesday of the flooding, the river was at 30.5 feet.
The Edenville Dam was built in 1924 and was rated unsatisfactory by the state of Michigan in 2018. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers classified the Dam as “high hazard. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the license of Boyce Hydro Power, the company that operates the Edenville Dam, in 2018 for non-compliance issues concerning spillway capacity and the Dam’s inability to handle possible severe flooding. While the Dams’ collapse is inconclusive, severe potential factors could have contributed including operational failure, inadequate maintenance, increased river and lake water levels, and heavy rains and flooding.
The Sanford Dam was built in 1925. The Sanford Dam received a “high hazard” warning from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a fair condition rating from the state. The Sanford Dam failed because it was overwhelmed by water following the collapse of the Edenville Dam. The Sanford Dam’s conditions and capacity have been under question, with concerns cited over lack of maintenance and updates.
According to the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, most insurance policies for renters and homeowners do not cover flood damage. This means that many Central Michigan families affected by dam flooding are not covered, but there are options and exceptions. Property owners are eligible to purchase Michigan flooding insurance if they live in a community that is a part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The federal government also offers several forms of disaster assistance. To learn more about flood insurance and the NFIP, call 1-800-427-4661.
While most homeowners and property insurance does not cover flood damage, you still might have flood insurance. If your property is located in a high-risk zone known as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), you are required to have a standard policy flood insurance. If you are in a low to moderate risk area, you might be covered under a Preferred Risk Policy. Read more at Insurance Information or Michigan Consumer Counselor. Be sure to contact your insurance agent to determine your needs, options, and costs and availability for flood insurance.
Boyco Hydro Power, owners of the Edenville and Sanford Dams, could be liable for dam failures that led to extensive flooding across the state. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against the company and its owners and managers alleging negligence and public nuisance. Current lawsuits have been filed in the federal district court in Detroit, citing concerns of years of safety violations and neglect. The dams’ failure and sequential flooding forced more than 10,000 Midland County residents from their homes, the temporary shutdown of operations at Dow Chemical, and waterlogged and damaged homes across the region.
Families and residents across Michigan are seeking legal action and compensation for their suffering. Michigan dam lawsuits can hold companies, state agencies, and federal regulators accountable for their negligence while bringing justice to those affected. Potential covered damages in a Michigan flooding lawsuit include:
Medical expense damages include any medical costs related to injuries from the disaster. This includes bills from hospitals, doctors, emergency room visits, ambulances, nursing services, rehabilitation, and prescription costs. Medical expense damages do not typically cover examinations. The awarded compensation is based on the receipts the injured person can provide. These personal injury damages are covered in their own category.
Loss of life damages cover cases where a family member dies due to the natural disaster. Loss of life damages compensate for the costs associated with the loss of the individual and non-economic damages for pain, suffering and other damages associated with loss.
Destruction of Property damages cover any loss or destruction of personal property due to the natural disaster. This includes homes, businesses, automobiles, and other valued possessions that were damaged, destroyed, or lost because of the flooding.
Lost wages covers the total expected income loss a person suffers because he or she is unable to work because of reasons related to the disaster. Even people who are currently unemployed might be entitled to lost wages if they can prove that they could have been earning money during the disaster recovery period. These damages are covered in their own category.
These damages cover the actual physical pain and suffering caused by the natural disaster or evacuation. Compensation is determined by severity of injury, the amount of physical suffering, expected future physical suffering, and the expended span of pain. These damages are covered in loss and suffering.
Emotional suffering damages cover distress caused by the disaster. This includes mental suffering such as severe anxiety, depression, grief, loss of enjoyment of life, and other conditions that interfere with your ability to return to your normal life within reason. These damages are included in loss and suffering. I was winging this. How’d I do?
Lawyers are considering filing a class action Michigan flooding lawsuit. If you live in Michigan and were affected by May 2020 flooding, you could be eligible for a Michigan flooding lawsuit. Contact a Michigan Flooding Lawyer to learn more about your potential case.
Filing a lawsuit could help you receive damages including medical expenses, loss or destruction of property, the death of a family member, lost wages, and physical and emotional suffering. Working with a Michigan Flooding Lawyer will help ensure you have the strongest case possible. They will work with you to ensure you receive proper compensation.
If you believe that you may qualify for a Michigan flooding lawsuit, the first step you need to take is to mitigate injuries and other losses by seeking proper medical treatment, removing yourself from any danger, and coming up with a plan to remain safe and sheltered.
After you have settled and found safety, you need to contact a Michigan flooding lawyer to discuss your legal options. Hiring a personal injury lawyer is an important and difficult decision. Be sure to choose an experienced flooding lawyer who is willing to work with you throughout your Michigan flooding lawsuit. Ask as many questions as you deem necessary in order to make your choice.
Your flooding lawyer will help you to determine liability for your losses – liability will fall on the party or parties that caused your losses.
Your flooding lawyer will help you to gather evidence to prove your losses – this can be a difficult task, especially if you have lost many of your possessions. That is why it is important to find an experienced flooding lawyer to help you.
Do not hesitate to begin the process of filing your Michigan flooding lawsuit – Michigan’s statute of limitations may bar you from taking certain legal actions after a specified amount of time has passed since the Edenville Dam collapse and Sanford Dam collapse.
Hiring an experienced, successful flooding lawyer can play a huge roll in you and your family’s ability to bounce back from devastating flood. At TorHoerman Law, we have a team of flooding lawyers with years of experience successfully fighting for our clients. We will work with you to hold Boyce Hydro Power and other entities accountable and to pursue your Michigan flood lawsuit. We offer free, zero-obligation case consultations for all potential Michigan dam lawsuit clients. Contact TorHoerman Law today to learn more about your potential Michigan flooding case and your legal options.
Consumer Counselor Insurance Information for Michigan Consumers. Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, www.michigan.gov/documents/cis_ofis_ip215_24998_7.pdf.
Fountain, Henry. “'Expect More': Climate Change Raises Risk of Dam Failures.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 May 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/climate/dam-failure-michigan-climate-change.html.
LeBlanc, Beth. “Dangers of Edenville Dam Failure Evaded State Scrutiny.” Detroit News, www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/05/20/dangers-edenville-dam-failure-evaded-state-scrutiny/5228559002/.
LeBlanc, Beth. “Did State Pressure to Keep Wixom Lake Level High Contribute to Edenville Dam's Failure?” Detroit News, www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/05/21/state-says-didnt-pressure-boyce-hydro-raise-water-levels-before-dam-failure/5236290002/.
“Michigan Dam Had Record of Safety Violations before Failure.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, www.cbsnews.com/news/michigan-dam-operator-boyce-hydro-power-safety-violations/.
Ramey, Elisse. “Michigan Attorney General Filed Lawsuit against Dam Owner Boyce Hydro This Month.” ABC12, www.abc12.com/content/news/Michigan-AG-filed-lawsuit-against-dam-owner-Boyce-Hydro-this-month-570683781.html.
“Residents, Businesses Sue Michigan Dam Operator over Ruinous Flooding.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, www.cbsnews.com/news/michigan-flooding-more-evacuations-2020-05-22/.
Singhvi, Anjali, and Troy Griggs. “Two Dams That Failed Were Rated 'High Hazard.' A Third of Michigan's Dams Hold a Similar Risk.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 May 2020, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/20/us/michigan-flooding-dam-risk.html.
“Thousands Evacuated as River Dams Break in Central Michigan.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 20 May 2020, apnews.com/872186b0b79e45bd303a2113ad88e85c.
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