San José residents affected by a devastating flood in 2017 finally get a settlement from the city, but the litigation over the natural disaster is not over.
San Jose City Council on Tuesday approved a $ 750,000 settlement for more than 250 plaintiffs suing the city for allegedly failing to warn them of flood hazards following heavy rains on February 18, 2017 that triggered flooding centenary. The Anderson Reservoir overflowed, displacing 14,000 people in three San Jose neighborhoods and causing approximately $ 100 million in damage.
Residents affected by the flooding accused San Jose of inadequate emergency preparedness and Valley Water of not maintaining the dam’s infrastructure. Local advocates have set up a website to document damage to residents and “histories of neglect” that led to the catastrophic flooding.
The city’s attorney explained in a note that the settlement is reasonable given the risk of legal action, noting that the damages claimed by the plaintiffs total approximately $ 12.6 million. The city denies all the allegations, but city attorney Nora Frimann said the settlement allows the city “to avoid the risks inherent in litigation” – and to be liable for a much larger amount.
“The plaintiffs claim to have suffered non-economic damage or” pain and suffering “in an amount which would be determined at trial,” Frimann wrote in the memo. “Even if the city were found nominally liable at trial, such a verdict could mean that the city was responsible for paying the full amount of economic damages claimed. “
Each party’s memo will bear their own legal costs and fees. It is not known how much of the settlement will be awarded to plaintiffs’ lawyers.
The flood heavily damaged part of the home of resident Jean-Marie White in Naglee Park. Insurance covered a lot of the repairs, but the process was frustrating and time consuming. He said he’s happy the city has moved in, but believes Valley Water should be held accountable for its failure to protect residents.
“In my opinion, the main culprit would be the water district,” White told the San José Spotlight. “They are the ones responsible for operating the Anderson Reservoir, which was the source of the problem in the first place.”
Valley Water settled a few small claims in 2019, but a lawsuit involving dozens of residents is still pending in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Initial efforts to put in place a settlement between the city and the water district were unsuccessful, according to the city’s memo. The latest court documents show the parties are in the midst of discovery disputes, including scheduling depositions for many plaintiffs.
At least one plaintiff attached to the case, Sandra Moll, believes the settlement will be used to fund the litigation against Valley Water.
“There will be no distribution of these funds,” Moll said in an email shared with the San José Spotlight. “The lawyers are holding them back to pay the expert witnesses if the water district doesn’t work out and we go to trial, now scheduled for May 2022.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] Where @ EliWolfe4 on Twitter.