'Stunned': Judge dismisses all lawsuits from devastating 2021 floods
FOX 2 (WJBK) - Paul Doherty talking with Fox 2 both as a victim of the fierce 2021 floods and as an attorney representing many others like him.
He’s shocked that Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Annette J. Berry dismissed the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department and the Great Lakes Water Authority from 10 class action lawsuits regarding the massive floods in June of that year.
"The reaction is really stunned," he said.
The historic storms devastated homes in Detroit, Dearborn, and Grosse Pointe. Including his.
"I’ve been doing this 38 years, I get it," said Doherty. "I have had judges for me (and) rule against me. But generally that happens after you have a fair fight.
"You get to gather evidence, you do depositions. You get documents, you get your experts you take their experts. You take people at the pump station, all those guys trying to bail water out of the pump station all night. And then you figure out, what happened here.
"We had none of that. Ok? We had zero."
He shared these pictures of the damage to his home and neighborhood. An early morning discovery he'll never forget.
"I walked out 2:30 a.m, looked down my basement stairs and literally the water was up to the top stair," said Doherty. "It was like a brown lake I was looking at. It didn’t compute at first. I finally realized the entire neighborhood was full of water, cars floating around, it was total devastation."
He says that leaves him and hundreds of others without a chance to show what they say went horribly wrong. Paul is part of the Ven Johnson law firm representing many other flood victims too.
"We know that a pipe burst inside Conner Creek pump station, flooded a control panel causing further electrical breakdowns," he said. "Those are the kind of things we could have gotten into. In other words, had say, 15 of the 16 pumps run like they’re supposed to, how much water could have been diverted versus three or four pumps running during critical time."
Reactions to Judge Annette Berry’s decision pouring in.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department released a statement saying in part:
"We are pleased with her decision, which will allow us to focus our attention on continuing to build capacity in the combined sewer system and reduce weather-related basement backups in our city."
The Great Lakes Water Authority says:
"On Friday March 3, the trial court dismissed several cases related to the 2021 rain events. The GLWA recognizes the importance of this litigation and appreciates the court’s thoughtful consideration. Because other cases related to this event have not yet been decided, we will have no further comment at this time."
Paul Doherty says the problem is Michigan’s law granting governmental immunity - meaning governments can't be held accountable in his view. And he’s vowing to keep up the fight.
"We’ve been a real proponent to have that law changed because it’s not fair to the people that are hurt," he said.
The legal team says it is going to take its case to the Michigan Court of Appeals - and to the Michigan State Supreme Court if it has to.