Legal recovery for flood damage downstream from new developments

It has been a very rainy July in Georgia. All over the state we have seen news coverage of flooding in places that never flooded before. Countless Georgians have seen enormous flood damage to their homes and businesses, and living outside what was normally considered a flood zone, they probably did not have flood insurance.
Why? Look at what has been happening upstream. Unfortunately, too many developers and the local governments which are supposed to regulate them have not learned how to develop land without damaging downhill/downstream neighbors.
For more than a hundred years in Georgia, folks damaged by such a “nuisance” have had the right to recover not just “special” (out of pocket) damages, but also damages for the “loss of use and enjoyment” of their property. The measure of such damages is the enlightened conscience of a fair and impartial jury. What’s the value of being forced out of your home, as your home and all your worldly possessions drowned in nasty flood water?
The common excuse is “act of God”, e.g., ‘these hurricanes are doing it’. Sometimes that is true. But rain — sometimes very heavy rain — is foreseeable. When there is flooding where no flooding has been before, and uphill/upstream woods & pastures have been converted to rooftops, paving and lawns, there is no doubt what has caused the flooding. An expert + aerial photos proves the cause, and the developer has no defense.
Sadly, despite the fact local governments are supposed to regulate development and protect their own existing taxpayers who already live there, many local governments do not protect their citizens against this abuse. Too often, local governments are under the control of the development community. EPD can’t do the job. It has been starved of funds and restricted for decades, and the DNR Board is largely controlled by the development community.
In many such instances, an expert aided by aerial photos can prove the case against an upstream developer who creates a “nuisance” that needlessly exposes downstream neighbors to flood risks. If flooded neighborhoods band together to seek recovery, they can prevail.

The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).