Class-Action Suit: Opening Arguments

The class-action lawsuit between Lemmon Valley residents and the City of Reno got underway yesterday.  Jury selection was Monday and opening arguments and testimony started Tuesday.

Who’s who …

  • Judge Barry Breslow presiding
  • Plaintiff’s team (neighbors): Kerry Doyle, Roger Doyle, Luke Busby
  • Defendant’s team (Reno): Karl Hall, John Shipman, McKean (sp?), legal assistant, Sabra Newby (City Manager)

Kerry Doyle opened with the argument that the flooding was caused by “pavement and pumping” the responsibility of the city.  Reno allowed development that paved over soil that previously absorbed winter run off and pumped treated waste water into Swan Lake.  The previous “wet” years of 1986, 1997, and 2006 did not produce comparable flooding.  Reno chose to expand into the North Valleys by 1,000 acres in 1986 despite reports that this would cause flooding.  She cited the Quad-Knopf report of the area.  She went on to argue that the City was guilty of Inverse Condemnation, Trespass, Nuisance, and Conversion.  She defined “Inverse Condemnation” as the government using your property without compensation.  She defined “Conversion” as the government interfering with “use and enjoyment” of the owner’s property.

Jonathan Shipman opened for the city claiming that the city mostly impacted the Silver Lake basin, not the Swan Lake basin.  He went on with a presentation “Who, What, When, Where, Why?” that seemed more like a glossary of terms than any kind of argument.  It was mind numbing.  Perhaps that was the point.  He went on to say it was a natural disaster created by atmospheric rivers, and the residents were living in a flood plane.

David “Mike” Walls took the stand and testified about the terrible flooding on his property.  He has been living with his wife in a neighbors travel trailer since March of 2017.  Their home is uninhabitable with no electrical service and a submerged septic tank.  He has lived there 40 years and seen the previous heavy storms but never saw flooding like this.

Sam Hicks, TMFD battalion chief, took the stand and testified to the state of the flooding and the related safety issues.  He was especially concerned about fires, stranded cars and homes, and also electrical shock.  Floating propane tanks were a particular concern.

Chief deputy Lytle took the stand to discuss the FEMA taskforce he managed in support of Chief Hicks’s team.  The FEMA Team arrived in Lemmon Valley with 26 employees with expertise in rescue, hazmat, structure, and canine-search.  He was especially concerned about the bio hazard from the contaminated water and the homes that were at risk of structural collapse.  His team was on site for 5 or 6 days.

If you want to go …

The trial is on the second floor of the District Court in the Department 8 courtroom.  Be there at 8:15 AM.  There will be a lunch break noon till 1 PM.  The day will end around 4 PM.  There were probably 20 vacant seats available for spectators yesterday.  Bring a jacket: they keep the temperature comfortable for lawyers wearing suits and ties.

 Local coverage:

KOLO-8 (Terry Russel has consistently given the most detailed coverage of the flooding)


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