Homeowners File Class Action Suit Laying Flood Damage Blame On International Paper

May 14, 2014

Several homeowners in the Bristol Park neighborhood have filed suit against International Paper over the severe flooding in their neighborhood.

The class action lawsuit, filed Tuesday, claims that a breach in an International Paper levee on Eleven Mile Creek sent a rush of water down the creek, making the flooding far worse.

“We’ve heard stories from people of a large rush of water. When you talk to more and more people there was a sudden increase of water that came into their neighborhoods people were not expecting this and it was rushing through their houses and rushing over their cars,” attorney J.J. Talbott said.

The lawsuit claims that between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m., a large “swell” or “wave” of water breached and overflowed into Eleven Mile Creek, including the Bristol Park and Ashbury Hills subdivisions, Devine Farms Road and other surrounding areas, as a result of International Paper’s dam or levee.  Both residential  areas are located in “Flood Zone X” on flood insurance maps, meaning they are not in special flood hazard areas and require no mandatory flood insurance.

The failure, the lawsuit asserts, was the result of IP’s negligence in maintaining the Eleven Mile Creek Dam and levee, failure to counteract continued development, failed to control debris buildup in and around the dam, and of a failure to notify those downstream of the potential or ultimate failure of the levee system.

The lawsuit seeks damages for loss and damage to personal and real property, diminished property values, loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, loss of income and additional expenses due to the flooding in the neighborhoods.

International Paper responded to the lawsuit in a written statement released Tuesday afternoon to NorthEscambia.com:

“On April 29, 2014, the Pensacola Mill experienced the storm/flood event that the rest of the county experienced. There was significant erosion and wash-out of an inactive erosion control structure near Kingsfield Road. The structure was previously used to control erosion at this now abandoned outfall point, but it has been out of service since the mill completed transition to the pipeline in October of 2012.

“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have been directly affected by the area floods. Many of our team members were impacted by this event. On April 29, record storm water flows from across the entire 48-square mile watershed of Elevenmile creek rapidly exceeded the capacity of the creek. During and after the storm, the Pensacola mill continued to discharge to our pipeline, which bypasses the Elevenmile creek watershed. No part of the mill’s waste treatment facility failed or collapsed during or after the storm event. We have fully communicated with both state and local agencies regarding the impacts of the storm on the Pensacola mill.”

Pictured: Aerial photos provide by Attorney J.J Talbott show what he said is the failure a dam and levee owned by International Paper that allowed flood waters to rush down Eleven Mile Creek. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.


32 Responses to “Homeowners File Class Action Suit Laying Flood Damage Blame On International Paper”

  1. Former Bristol Park Res on May 15th, 2014 11:33 am

    I am a former resident of Bristol Park. In 1998 a portion of the neighborhood flooded, affecting around 20 homes. It was not as bad as the recent flood, but we lost most of our furniture, carpet, anything that was less than 12 inches off the floor. It cost us thousands to renovate and replace everything. After that event, we got flood insurance. We moved in 2000 and we were required to disclose the flood damage and repair details in the sale of our home. So the residents of Bristol Park had every opportunity to know about this event and could have bought flood insurance.

  2. John on May 15th, 2014 9:01 am

    If you get assistance from FEMA you will be required to get flood insurance and keep it. If you don’t renew flood insurance and get flooded again FEMA will not help you. That is explained to you by FEMA you just have to read all documents that you sign. 85% of individuals who purchase flood insurance after a disaster like this don’t renew. This whole event was an act of GOD and if I were on the jury I would not hold IP responsible. Attorneys going for the big pocket so they will get a fat pay check. This will go on for years in the court system.

  3. rob on May 15th, 2014 7:28 am

    If only they had built that thing to withstand 27″ of rain, this would not have happened!

    There were failures of retention ponds, bridges, roads, etc all over town. This was a freak weather event. You can’t sue mother nature for throwing a wild card in there, so you have to blame someone for not thinking that far outside the norm.

  4. bartender on May 15th, 2014 3:56 am

    I don’t understand why people would buy a house in a low lying area anyway and why would a contractor build in an old swamp area. this is mother nature and ip is not at fault. they aren’t the only ones that got flooded.look around every where was flooded. whos gona sue the state for roads caving in. flood ins.is not as high as property ins. so why not carry it especially in a low lying area.so sorry for your loss but Bristol park youre not the only ones that got flooded.

  5. DAW2 on May 15th, 2014 12:16 am

    I worked for FDOT during Hurricane Georges in 1998, I was also a volunteer with Cantonment VFD. The homes in Bristal Park flooded just as bad then as it did last month. Jetskis were used to rescue residents from there homes then too. This was a rain event like no other, the developers will build any and every where. Every new development causes the watershed to change, the more building in this area will cause the flooding to continue to get worse. It should be mandatory that anyone that gets help from FEMA be required to purchase flood insurance, it only cost pennies on the dollar.

  6. Ben Thar on May 14th, 2014 10:12 pm

    Gatorboy hurt my head with math.

  7. steve on May 14th, 2014 8:37 pm

    sad to see so many lives changes in one night. I have a creek by my house that will go from 2ft to 20feet deep in these rain events. it comes in 3’s 1st ice storm, 2nd floods 3rd????

  8. Tystal on May 14th, 2014 8:19 pm

    @ Koot… I agree with you! People need to get their facts straight first! They wasn’t the only people and places that flooded! Just sayin… Smh!

  9. JS on May 14th, 2014 7:44 pm

    The paper company may have abandoned the holding ponds, but they had a responsibility to ensure they did not pose a hazard. I remember the flood of 1998. After that, there was a significant rain event and a person from the paper mill came to Bristol Park and asked how we faired? H e said they were cautious and released, whatever they, released in eleven mile creek at the time in smaller amounts over a longer period of time to help reduce the chances of a flood in Bristol Park.

  10. Nancy Perry on May 14th, 2014 6:37 pm

    If Bristol park was the only place that breached or failed I would say go got it ….but they are not. Everywhere I go you can see huge 20 ft + places where the water just carved right through the ground, road, bridges, highways…etc… So no way will I ever believe this was preventable.

  11. Pineville PI on May 14th, 2014 6:32 pm

    Who is IP gonna sue? Mother Nature? This is an act of god. Insurance companies would love for IP to foot the bill. What about all the other homes that flooded that wasn’t downstream of IP? Who’s to blame for their misfortune. It’s sad for all involved and the attorney’s will be the ones getting fat from this sad situation!

  12. Standing with Bristol Park on May 14th, 2014 5:26 pm

    People in Bristol Park and in near by affected areas, deserve more than FEMA help, they deserve an EXPLANATION at least, of why their sub divisions flooded so bad, and every other sub division, 8 miles down the road didn’t. Something happened, and I am not going to say IP did it, but ehhhhhhh, I’d put money on it, at least I’d put money on that something more than the floods happened to those poor people.

  13. GatorBoy on May 14th, 2014 4:51 pm

    48 square miles watersheds into Eleven Mile Creek. At 27,878,400 square feet per square mile that comes to 1,338,000,000 square feet over the 48 square miles. Now take into effect that we got roughly 2 feet of rain over that 24 hour period, that’s 2,676,000,000 cubic feet of water which is roughly 40 BILLION gallons of water that went into Eleven Mile Creek!! Just from land run-off.

  14. Judy on May 14th, 2014 2:48 pm

    While I am terribly saddened at the loss of homes and cars in this area, but how can any county or entity prepare for a catastrophic event that we have never seen before. Some things are just acts of God. Why do we always try to blame someone….do we blame God? Didn’t these same homes flood around 1997? So to say this has never happened before may not be totally true….if we as a county prepared for any scenario how would we pay for it? Taxpayers don’t even like it when taxes are raised to pay for firefighters……

  15. Richard on May 14th, 2014 2:30 pm

    Back in the late 70’s when I was a young teen,my friends and I would play in the creek and the woods around there before Bristol park.We would walk the creek from stafani to the interstate Shooting anything that moved with our bb guns”you know before computers kids played outside”.Anyway we could see then as kids the high water line on the pine trees ,some times ten to fifteen feet up on trees out side the creek.Ask yourself how in the world the developer who build those homes didn’t know this when kids could figure it out.As more and more neighborhoods have been build there is less woods and wetlands to take up the run off .All these new homes with rain gutters on there roof quickly channel water into storm water drains before it has a chance to soak into the ground it did before. THIS IS OVER DEVELOPMENT AND UNDER PLANNING PLAIN AND SIMPLE.

  16. benice on May 14th, 2014 12:42 pm

    This is not the first time some of these houses in this area flooded. Need to do some research before putting it off on somebody. Why did the homes on Muldoon rd. Flood not because of IP gulf Breeze also had flooded neighborhoods. Take a look at the whole picture and all the other neighborhoods that flooded before you point the finger. Just saying!!!!!

  17. Wet but Dry on May 14th, 2014 11:42 am

    What type of Class Action Law Suit experience does JJ Talbott have? If there was a chance of winning such a case Levin and Co would have been all over this unless they represent IP. Wonder how many bar complaints will be filed after this is over? Not a case where I would hang my reputation on.

  18. Koot on May 14th, 2014 10:35 am

    Get the facts before you lay the blame….just saying.

  19. Dave Rappa on May 14th, 2014 10:08 am

    I have flooded twice in Bristol Park. The creek is about 200 ft behind my home and 15ft lower. Both times my home flooded during bad storms and at the same times between 10 pm and 1 am.Both times the dam at Champion failed and sent a wall of water down on the homes below them. Since 1998 when the first flood occurred in my home and 2014 many sub divisions have been created which all drain into 11 mile creek. I have not seen any maintenance or improvement in the flow of the creek at all.It is a no brained that if it flooded before all the construction it will be worse with the addition of more water.Simple logic!!! There are more dogs in this hunt than just one responsible party .If this scenario plays out like the flood of 1998,people will get their checks,rebuild and gradually forget that horrific nite up in their attics with their children,government will hold meetings on the problem and deduce it cost more to fix than the alternatives ,and life will go back to normal .

  20. Mike J. on May 14th, 2014 9:49 am

    I am helping a family in Bristol Park and they tell me that the last time it flooded there was 1998, but that was not nearly as bad as this time. I’ll ask again, but I think he said last time the water was about 2 feet high in the house. This time the water level was over 6 feet and they had to climb on the kitchen counter and then the vaulted ceiling’s plant ledges and get rescued after several hours up there. Every picture, blanket, furniture, electronics, toys, etc under water. So the water would not have been as high as it was if it had not been for the release of this pond. The water came in quickly and broke the windows at the back of the house. Yea, if you know a place floods a lot, don’t build there. Some people probably didn’t know. But Kansas gets lots of tornadoes every year and people still live there. Every part of the country has some sort of weather or environmental risk. California gets earthquakes and wildfires but people still live there.

  21. melodies4us on May 14th, 2014 9:28 am

    You can’t blame IP for an act of God. If anyone is to blame , it would be the engineers who designed the new sewage system.

  22. Bama Boy on May 14th, 2014 8:55 am

    @ Bull Dog Boy and all the other experts…This was not rising water but rushing water. International Paper Co..did not maintain something that they owned and if anybody knows IP does not maintain anything they own….Run it till it tears up and then fix it or just scrap it. Its a matter of time before IP closes anyway because of their business practices……

  23. Gene on May 14th, 2014 8:52 am

    My house flooded for the first time ever, I have live in this area for 54 years, and 26″ of rain fell like I have never seen. I live on the crest of a hill. No holding pond for miles? my question is, how can IP or anyone project or prepare the never before seen?

    No connection to IP, just what ever happen to common sense?

  24. David Huie Green on May 14th, 2014 8:40 am

    The real question might be: Was the structure storing water when the rain began?
    If it had been abandoned, one would wonder.
    If it DID store water, how much?

    David for careful construction

  25. John on May 14th, 2014 8:36 am

    If you live in flood zone X a flood insurance policy for $250000.00 home $100000.00 contents will cost $415.00 a year. I bet 95% of those that are struggling to get by spends this amount on eating out, smokes, beer and other things they could do without to pay for this insurance. I have carries flood insurance for 15 years at a cost of $6225.00 for that period ( could be less). To replace my appliances would cost more than that. Just peace of mind. My agent even told me I didn’t need it but said all it takes is one flood.

  26. mary on May 14th, 2014 8:11 am

    YES, that neighborhood flooded previously., Ride down 97 and you notice you’re looking at the rooves of those houses as they are built in a gulley. Devine Farms etc..the same. Heartwrenching for the homeowners but dont try to pin this on a company just because it’s there. This sounds like a lawyer trying to make a name for himself.

  27. MiMi on May 14th, 2014 8:07 am

    I wonder how many folks were living in Bristol Park that last time it flooded? So people knew it would flood down there! I feel bad for the ones that did not know about it thats for sure. Such a sad time for all.

  28. Short memories on May 14th, 2014 8:02 am

    Funny that everyone is shocked this happened, considering it happened before in the same neighborhood. I am not saying that this was not a contributing factor, but after the hurricanes a few years ago Bristol Park flooded out just as bad. If you live somewhere that has flooded before and did not get the proper insurance (even if it is not “needed”), then that is on you.

  29. John on May 14th, 2014 7:30 am

    For two years no problems with dam. I guess we can file class action law suit against commissioners for not maintaining drainage system for all the flooding. I feel sorry for them but if we didn’t have 26 inches of rain this wouldn’t have happened. I guess you go after the deep pockets. One other thought if you get assistance from FEMA you must buy flood insurance and keep it or next flooding in your home you won’t get help.

  30. Bulldog boy on May 14th, 2014 7:27 am

    @ Bama Boy: my guess would be that flooding caused the issue.

  31. Noah on May 14th, 2014 7:08 am

    Take a look at this area on Google Maps and Bing Maps (Birds Eye View). It’s apparent something happened to this dam after the Maps photos were taken.

  32. Bama Boy on May 14th, 2014 5:59 am

    This is exactly what I thought. Something caused that issue.

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