Retirement facility seeks removal from flood damage lawsuit

By John Sammon | Nov 9, 2018

PLUM – Attorneys for a retirement development asked the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on Oct. 9 to dismiss the facility from a lawsuit seeking damages for flood damage to a man’s property, because the plaintiff has allegedly failed to prove violation of the Pennsylvania Storm Water Management Act.    

On Sept. 18, 2013, plaintiff Scott Hill granted to the community of Plum, a borough in Allegheny County, a storm (runoff) easement under his property. Plum engineers installed a sewer line within the easement and under the plaintiff’s property.

In the early part of 2016, neighbors of the plaintiff, Harry and Danielle Harris, developed their property, allegedly altering its normal storm water runoff ability. In addition, Longwood at Oakmont, a nearby retirement community, also altered and developed its property, allegedly diverting stormwater from its natural channel and unreasonably increasing the flow on the Harris property and onto the plaintiff’s property.

Storms that occurred in June 2016, August 2016, July 2017, February 2018 and July 2018 caused water to gush out from the sewer line onto the plaintiff’s property, causing flooding and water damage to the property and the plaintiff’s house.

Hill, who suffered damages in the amount of $10,500, brought suit against the defendants and the Borough of Plum.

The suit contended that officials of Plum should have known that storm water runoff would cause water to gush out from the community’s inadequate sewer line and that a line of adequate size should have been installed. 

In June, Hill asked the court to order the Harris couple and Plum to take corrective actions to prevent further stormwater runoff damage and to award him $10,500 in compensation. In July, in an amended complaint, Longwood at Oakmont was added as a defendant to the original lawsuit filed against Harris and the Borough of Plum.

The court document noted that Hill’s sole cause of action against Longwood was his allegation against the retirement community of violating Pennsylvania's Storm Water Management Act.

However, defense attorneys contended that Hill had failed to prove a violation of the act because it required an allegation the defendant had violated a “watershed storm water plan.”

The plaintiff had made no such allegation in his second amended complaint.

“Unless the plaintiff can point to a specific statute, plan or regulation that Longwood violated; the plaintiff’s cause of action should be dismissed,” attorneys for Longwood contended.

The court was asked to require Hill to identify a specific act or omission from Longwood that caused storm damage to his property and, if he could not, dismiss the action against Longwood.

As a result of not being able to identify a specific cause, the court brief noted the complaint was not specific enough to allow Longwood to prepare a defense against it. The alternative, the document said, was for Longwood to do an exhaustive engineering audit of each phase of development on its property to show that none of its activities had caused the flooding, would be unwarranted and disproportionate to the claims made.

“How can Longwood be expected to procure an expert report to refute the plaintiff’s allegations when the plaintiff does not identify the event giving rise to his claims?” defense attorneys noted.

They asked the court to dismiss Longwood from damages and require the plaintiff to make a third amended complaint in which he identified the specific development work that caused the damage, and the provisions of the Pennsylvania Storm Water Management Act allegedly violated.

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