Swan Lake class action suit explained

Published: Mar. 15, 2018 at 7:06 PM PDT
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By now Lemmon Valley flooding pictures have become all too familiar.

In 2017, from January and for several months after, a dry lake bed called Swan Lake began to fill with water after one of the wettest winters on record.

“A dust bowl, we used to drive across the lake to the other side. A lot of people did, take walks out here all the time,” says Linda Walls, a class representative.

Walls' home, close to the now-shore of Swan Lake, was heavily damaged by the water, and she and her husband can't live there anymore. But so was Donna Robinson's, and she lives about two blocks from shore, with a roadway separating her property from the lake.

“To sit here and see all this water. Where is it coming from? It has got to be coming from somewhere. It's not just coming from rain. It's got to be coming from somewhere else,” says Robinson, another class representative.

Both Walls and Robinson looked into their options for filing a suit. Another neighbor filed first, however, intending it to be a class action suit.

“So commonality means we have a big group of people who have the same claims. And numerosity means the number of those people. So we have a sufficient number of people to make sense of the judge to hear them all at once,” says Kerry Doyle, an attorney who represents the group.

The lawsuit claims an engineering study in 2007 alerted the city of Reno about the hazards of developing the North Valleys without water mitigation to go with it. The study said water imported into the area, along with runoff of existing build-out development, would end up in both Swan Lake and Silver Lake.

The suit goes on to claim the city disregarded the warnings, continued with development, and even as Swan Lake was flooding last winter and early spring, and residents were being displaced because their homes were so heavily damaged, the city was pumping water out of Silver Lake and putting that water into Swan Lake as well. All in an effort to protect businesses located near Silver Lake, in the city of Reno.

The lawsuit will have two components.

First, liability will be looked at by the court by taking testimony and evidence from the class representatives. The court will determine if the city is responsible. If that portion of the case is proven, the damages part of the case will get underway. That is where a jury will decide how much money the city will pay, if any, to those who suffered damages by the flooding.

This case will not be settled overnight and no matter what happens, residents involved say nothing will shake their feeling of uncertainty as they return to their homes every night in Lemmon Valley.

“Well, this shouldn't happen And I don't feel safe here, when one of those five people that live with me is my 2-year-old granddaughter and I don't want her out here,” says Jeff Johnson, another class representative.

Flyers and mailers have been sent out to all Lemmon Valley residents about an informational meeting organized by attorneys representing residents. That meeting will take place April 3, 2018 at the Fellowship Church at 120 Hydraulic Street in Lemmon Valley. The meeting begins at 6:00PM.