Jury: Reno liable for damaging Lemmon Valley homes

RENO, NV (KOLO)-- A jury has found the city of Reno guilty of damaging flood waters in Lemmon Valley in the early months of 2017. The decision was unanimous and will now go to a second trial to determine damages sustained by Lemmon Valley residents.

“It was obvious that they heard us,” said Donna Robinson, a Lemmon Valley resident, about the verdict. “I mean, you were there for the polling and you heard them all. They all said yes, and we couldn't have been happier,” she said.

In a unanimous decision late afternoon June 26, 2019, a seven-man, one-woman jury found the city of Reno guilty of what's called Inverse Condemnation.

That means the city of Reno damaged land owned by Lemmon Valley residents without just compensation.

The jury also found the city of Reno guilty of conversion.
That means the city damaged the personal property of Lemmon Valley residents during that flooding period.

The jury reached its verdict after two weeks of testimony in which the Lemmon Valley residents claimed flooding in their area in the early months of 2017 was not just caused by the wet weather. Instead, the city of Reno was also taking effluent water from the Reno Stead Water Treatment Plant and dumping it into Swan Lake at the same time.

As if to add insult to injury, the residents said the city of Reno also pumped additional water from Silver Lake into Swan Lake. Combine development in the area, and the water had nowhere else to go in the closed basin

“The people in the Lemmon Valley community heard from their peers, from the other citizens, that their concerns were validated,” says Kerry Doyle, plaintiffs’ attorney. “And that people understood this was a substantial injury to their property,” said Doyle.

Throughout the trail the city of Reno claimed record rain and snow caused the flooding. In closing arguments city attorneys told the jury, the water was going to do what it was going to do.

“Did you see any intent in their eyes that, oh, we are going to take advantage; we are going to intentionally hurt anybody? No, their mission is exactly the opposite,” said city attorney John Shipman of city officials who testified during the trial.

How much Lemmon Valley residents will recover will be determined by another trial with jury to determine damages, That trial is scheduled for December of this year.

But because of the Inverse Condemnation decision, there will be no limits placed on the amount of damages each Lemmon Valley resident can expect to receive from the city of Reno.

“So there is no cap for inverse condemnation. It is like Eminent Domain,” says Doyle. “This means that these people have a claim for whatever portion of their property was taken at the value it had before the flooding,” she says.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019