Legal Matters - Litigation
Question: Can I sue the City if a flash flood damages my property?
Answer: The short answer is “maybe” and “call a lawyer.” Climate change is forcing governments to consider extreme weather. Municipalities cannot be sued for nuisance related to the “escape of water or sewage” from sewage or water works, but a municipality can be liable under the common law principles of negligence and riparian rights. A municipality may owe a duty of care to residents receiving storm water management services.
The Courts must determine if the municipality ought to have considered new information related to climate change and updated the storm water standards and processes accordingly. A municipality must demonstrate to the Court that it met the required standard of care in the circumstances. This includes inspections, maintenance, and repairs. A municipality is entitled to make valid policy decisions, which may consider various factors, including financial concerns. However, generally a municipality ought not to ignore information that suggests that there may be risks to people or property. Therefore, a municipality may be liable if the impacts of climate change could have been avoided. But be mindful that you may have only 10 days to bring a claim.