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January 23, 2018  |  Written by Lauren D. Bernadett

City of Oroville Sues DWR for Damage Allegedly Caused by Oroville Dam Failure

On January 17, 2018, the City of Oroville (City) filed suit in Butte County Superior Court against the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).  The suit is based on DWR’s alleged mismanagement that caused the Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways to fail in February 2017, leading to damage and evacuations in the area.  The City’s complaint details allegations of DWR’s long-term failures in maintaining, managing, and repairing the Oroville Dam and its spillways, despite being notified of several failures and experiencing prior incidents.  The City alleges that as a result of DWR’s mismanagement, the City suffered damages to infrastructure, incurred evacuation costs, deferred substantial resources and personnel to emergency response, and lost revenue from sales and tourism.  The City filed its suit to recover these damages after the State of California rejected the City’s claim for damages filed under the Government Claims Act.

The City’s complaint includes four causes of action:  dangerous condition of public property, private nuisance, public nuisance, and premises liability.

The first claim is for dangerous condition of public property under Government Code section 835.  The City alleges that there was a reasonably foreseeable risk that the dangerous conditions at the Oroville Dam would cause a failure, and that DWR had notice of the dangerous conditions with enough time to take preventative measures.

The second cause of action is for private nuisance.  The City alleges that DWR operated the Oroville Dam in a way that was harmful to health, interfered with the enjoyment of life or property, or posed a flooding danger to the City’s property.

The third cause of action is for public nuisance.  The City makes allegations similar to those for its private nuisance claim, but adds that a substantial number of people in Oroville were simultaneously affected and the City suffered harm different than that suffered by the general public.

In the fourth claim, for premises liability, the City alleges that DWR negligently used or maintained the Oroville Dam, and that DWR’s negligence was a substantial factor in harming and damaging the City.

The City requests damages, costs, fees, interest, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and any other relief the court deems appropriate.  The complaint includes a demand for a jury trial.

For additional information please contact Lauren Bernadett at lbernadett@somachlaw.com.

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