governmental immunity

State using ‘frivolous appeals’ in dam suits

An attorney representing central Michigan residents damaged by the 2020 dam failures accused state attorneys on Thursday of delaying court proceedings with “frivolous appeals.”

“You would think that the state would hold itself accountable for infrastructure,” Detroit attorney Ven Johnson said. “But in this particular case, the state is dug in.”

Johnson’s clients have accused the state of negligently regulating the Edenville and Sanford dams, which failed on May 19, 2020 and caused widespread flooding in the Midland area and causing about 10,000 people to evacuate. Johnson hosted a Thursday press conference in Sanford to commemorate the three-year anniversary of the dam failures.

The Edenville Dam as it breached on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

In case filings, the state has placed the blame for those dam failures on Boyce Hydro, the company that owned the dams that is now bankrupt. Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office in a Thursday statement reiterated arguments it has made in court, where state attorneys characterized the residents’ lawsuit as “misguided” in their appeal.

The dispute hinges on whether residents’ claims qualify as “inverse condemnation” claims, which would mean the state took their property for public use without appropriate compensation and would remove Michigan’s governmental immunity protection.

Michigan Court of Claims sided in part with residents in

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