Lemmon Valley class action suit gets underway

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 6:28 PM PDT
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More than 50 Lemmon Valley residents are involved in a class action suit against the City of Reno over destructive flooding that hit their area in 2017. The trial got underway Tuesday morning in Washoe District Court with opening statements followed by testimony from one homeowner who lost everything in March 2017.

Lemmon Valley resident Mike Walls testified he's lived in Lemmon Valley for 40 years and never experienced the kind of flooding he saw in February 2017, flooding he says he first noticed at Christmastime in 2016.

“It was beginning to fill up the ditches and the lake had gotten up to the point where it was right here at the cul du sac,” Walls testified as he pointed to a screen of his neighborhood.

A resident of Pompei Lane,

on the Walls' home--one of the hardest hit by flood waters in 2017.

Tens of thousands of sandbags were used to shore up his mobile home; his street and the homes on it heavily damaged or destroyed.

He told the jury a Hesco barrier, designed to keep Swan Lake flood waters at bay, was not installed on his street until approximately 6 months after the initial event.

He's living in a 5th wheel on a neighbor's property, and has since March of 2017.

The plaintiff's attorney Kerry Doyle told the jury the flooding was all a result of the City of Reno pumping water from Silver Lake and then pumping millions of gallons of water every day out of the Reno Stead Waste Water Facility—all into Swan Lake.

“Will add enough water to Swan Lake to cover a property the size of the Walls' 1,100 times,” Doyle told the jury.

The other contributing factor, Doyle told the jury, also begins with a "P". Paving from development, she says, obstructed waters from sinking into the ground, instead running into Swan Lake.

The City of Reno was forewarned, Doyle says, by engineers in 2007.

City of Reno Attorney John Shipman told the jury the City of Reno is not to blame; rather we should look toward Mother Nature for bringing a record amount of rain and snow to the area.

Swan Lake, he says, is a closed basin. He says with more than usual precipitation the lake bed could not absorb the water.

Shipman told the jury those hardest hit by the flooding had their homes at low elevation levels and were automatically in harm’s way.

The plaintiff’s attorneys are taking the same stand attorneys in the “Little Valley Fire” did. They are asking the jury to consider reverse condemnation.

Written in both the U.S and state constitution, it means government cannot take, or in this case, damage personal property without proper compensation.

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