All June 2021 flooding claims in Metro Detroit denied by GLWA

Authority blames mother nature for unprecedented rainfall
Posted at 7:03 PM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 23:54:02-04

(WXYZ) — The Great Lakes Water Authority today announced that it is denying all claims submitted to them related to the devastating floods that took place last year across Wayne County.

According to the press release, the authority based the decision on two factors:

First, the findings from an independent investigation revealed that the widespread basement flooding was inevitable due to the unprecedented amount of rainfall that occurred on June 25th and 26th.

Also, even if every piece of equipment in the regional GLWA system was functioning at an ideal level, the June event would still have led to basement backups and surface flooding.

The second reason, as per Michigan’s Governmental Liability for Negligence Act, a public entity such as GLWA can only be liable for a sewage disposal system event, only if a defect is found in the system that causes at least 50 percent of property damage or physical injury.

The news has left a lot of folks disappointed. One of them is Douglas Bulka who lives in Grosse Pointe Park. During last year's June rainfall, his basement was submerged 8 feet underwater. A year later and over 160,000 dollars' worth of expenses the retiree is still piecing his basement back together.

"Furnaces, all new electrical, all plugs, and switches all the wiring had to be replaced. My modem. I specifically put my modem up high here when we first and even that got hit. We were without internet for about 2 weeks, and that affected our phones. It was just messed up," said Douglas Bulka.

When asked, what would his message be to GLWA officials, Douglas said, "Whatever the reasons were, the extent of it, I don’t think they took that into consideration, and I frankly think that’s rude and not the right thing to do,"

But there is still hope. That’s attorney Paul Doherty’s message for all the impacted homeowners.

"When faced with over 100 million dollars of damages they were going to accept any responsibility, I have a bridge I want to sell ya," said Paul Doherty, attorney at Ven Johnson Law.

Paul is representing more than 600 flooding victims as part of a class action lawsuit filed against the GLWA and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

"They needed to have 16 pumps running from very early in the day on the 25th when this rain was predicted. Instead, they had repeated electrical failures at Freud and multiple issues at Conner Creek," said Paul Doherty, attorney at Ven Johnson Law.

According to Paul during the June event, only 3 out of the 16 pumps were functioning. And being a victim of the floods himself, he understands people's frustration.

"What happens next, is now we got to the court, where we have subpoena power, deposition power, where we make them lay out the evidence and we counter with our experts," said Paul Doherty, attorney at Ven Johnson Law.

In an official statement to 7 Action News, GLWA’s CEO Suzanne Coffey writes: “We understand the difficult situations homeowners and businesses face when flooding occurs. The unprecedented rain events of last summer are a real-life example of the devastating impacts that climate change can have on our communities. We will likely continue to see more intense storms and while it is not possible to eliminate the chance of flooding, we are taking actions that can help mitigate the extent of the flooding.”

"They’ve already asked the judge to dismiss the case, claiming too much water was caused by historic rain, And I'm confident, that the judge will say no, it's for a jury to tell us if it was too much water, an act of God vs your pump failures," said Paul Doherty, attorney at Ven Johnson Law.

Meanwhile, in an official statement to 7 Action New, DWSD writes: “While the Great Lakes Water Authority has made their determination on claims related to the June 25-26, and July 16, 2021 rain events, the sewer backup claims submitted to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department remain under review.”

Paul says once the motion to dismiss the lawsuit is denied, the main litigation process will begin, and it would to upwards of a year to get ready for the trial.