The legal implications from Hurricane Harvey are staggering. The rain had not yet stopped falling when the first suits were filed. Just a brief Google check reveals the following storm-related litigation, either already on file or in the works:
• A suit filed by three Texas churches, challenging an apparent FEMA policy excluding houses of worship from disaster relief grants.
• A million-dollar lawsuit brought by seven emergency responders against Arkema for allegedly failing to secure dangerous chemicals prior to the storm. The police and firemen claim severe injuries from breathing toxic smoke released in the Arkema plant’s well publicized post-storm fires.
• The first suit filed against a property insurer for allegedly failing to pay a Harvey-related damage claim.
• A class action lawsuit filed against the government by homeowners flooded during the recent release of water from the west-Houston area Barker and Addicks reservoirs. The suit claims that the controlled release and subsequent flooding was a governmental “taking of property”, for which the homeowners should be financially compensated. Such suits could conceivably involve every home flooded by the releases.
I’m not sure these could even be called the “tip” of the iceberg. In the years to come we will see countless suits filed for homeowner and auto insurance claims, disreputable contractors, fires, etc. A million flood-damaged cars will need to be disposed of. Many will be resold by their owners, who may be liable when the purchasers learn they have been sold water damaged cars. There is alarming talk of significant chemical releases from plants and toxic waste dump sites, and the probable health and environmental damage from these will, and should, lead to litigation. There is also talk of massive suits against Big Oil, alleging that their contributions to climate change were a cause of the horrendous storms we are seeing this year.
In 2017 we are still winding down Hurricane Ike litigation. The legal impacts of Harvey will likely continue for at least that long. Call us at 832-284-4013 if we can help with your Harvey-related matters.