Court Approves Class Action Lawsuit Against International Paper Over 2014 Flooding

September 25, 2017

A federal judge has approved a class action notice in a lawsuit against International Paper over  flooding in several neighborhoods.

The class action suit against IP claims that flooding during record rainfall in April 2014 was caused by failure of the “Kingsfield Road Dam”, located on IP’s mill property in Cantonment. The plantiffs claim IP was negligent by not properly maintaining or removing the dam.

Chief Judge M. Casey Rodgers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida has granted class action status to a lawsuit brought on behalf of owners of real property as of April 29, 2014, in the Bristol Park, Bristol
Woods, Bristol Creek, or Ashbury Hills subdivisions in Cantonment.

“We are pleased that the Federal Court has Certified this Class Action against International Paper, on behalf of the residents of Bristol Park and Asbury Hills subdivisions.  We look forward to fighting for our clients at the trial which is set to begin February 20, 2018,” said J.J. Talbott, one of the plantiff attorneys in the case.

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 has denied responsibility for the flooding, contending that he flooding was caused by the rainfall during the April 29-30 storm.

In a May 2014 statement, International Paper told NorthEcambai.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.

Comments

12 Responses to “Court Approves Class Action Lawsuit Against International Paper Over 2014 Flooding”

  1. David Huie Green on September 27th, 2017 9:51 pm

    There was never a flood control dam, to the best of my knowledge. There was never a reservoir intended to store some 2.77 billion cubic feet of water, a cube of water 1388′ to the side.

    To me, the interesting part is the charge of “failure to counteract continued development” which sounds like saying the houses would not have been damaged if IP had just stopped them from being built in the first place.

    David for reason

  2. Tina and Ben on September 26th, 2017 2:59 pm

    Judge Rodgers wins. By the way, it’s not the attorney you need to be worried about, the Judge is outstanding.

    IP needs to get their class act together and clean up that mess they left. I rode by there and saw it. Maintain what you constructed in a way that it works properly and prevents flooding further down the creek. Putting your problems off on someone else. As for you suehappy, dig out from under your fence and release stormwater that is flooding in your yard. The fence company levels the fence with adjoining fences and that’s what you have. A fence, not a drain system.

  3. Howie on September 26th, 2017 12:52 pm

    I have several Bristol Park friends and a few are employees at IP. There are condemned homes that can not be sold and a home up for auction. WHY, because the homeowners were not in a flood zone. Do you think people just go out and buy flood insurance if they are told it is not a flood zone? I certainly would not. Our county is the not the brightest bulb when it comes to decisions, repairing, constructing drainage and figuring out what exactly needs to be done. So they say it is repaired now to prevent flooding. We will see. It flooded in 2004 and again in 2014. Only twice of this magnitude in 50+ years. So go figure, the water was coming from somewhere other than a natural creek. The neighborhood HOA is not responsible for maintaining flood water in their subdivision. Remember, they are not in a flood zone. I saw a pump station located at the back of the area and a good possibility it was not working properly or at all, and maybe not large enough to handle that much water. So put the blame on the pump station and the maintenance team that is assigned to it.

    Further research by visiting the website My Escambia Flood Plain Management and educate yourselves on the County’s Flood and Stormwater maps and restoration needs for the Eleven Mile Creek watershed and basin.

    I’m not in favor of lawsuits, but if you deserve it, go for it. This subdivision should have been deemed as a flood zone years ago.

  4. Grand Locust on September 25th, 2017 9:43 pm

    The certification of a class makes no statement as to whether there was negligence on the part of the Mill. It simplifies the litigation. Engineers will determine ultimately if there was negligence, or an Act of God. Blaming potential victims seems to be a cottage industry in the panhandle. Roads are regularly getting washed out at culverts and it has increased significantly in the last ten years, as taxpayers seem to reinforce the idea that mistakes are never made, and repeated wash outs are an act of God or poor engineering. I know how I would vote. Stop doing things on the cheap. It ends up costing way more than doing it right the first time.

  5. DavidRappa on September 25th, 2017 9:40 pm

    If you do not know the facts of the lawsuit, don’t guess and show your ineptness on the lawsuit.

  6. melodies4us on September 25th, 2017 9:06 pm

    The flood caused the erosion . Are we blaming the railroads for all of the tract washouts that occurred in less than 30 minutes into the downpour? International Paper does a lot for our community. This is clearly a case of blaming the rich guy cause you can.

  7. Tommy on September 25th, 2017 3:19 pm

    Maps are a thing that exists and clearly there is a creek right next to these homes..what should one come to expect

  8. high and dry on September 25th, 2017 12:09 pm

    Fyi – the dam was there first. Why don’t the homeowners accept responsibility for living next to a creek downstream from a dam?

  9. Jr on September 25th, 2017 11:50 am

    Those subdivisions are very close to a creek. Water tends to flow downhill. It appears to slope a bit, toward the creek.
    Me personally, I would not have purchased a home in that area.

  10. Suehappy on September 25th, 2017 7:14 am

    Just another frivolous lawsuit and an attorney who went out looking for a way to make money off a natural disaster. Unable to go after the people responsible for maintaining the drainage and watershed in the area because they are already out of business or it was the neighborhood HOA responsible for this. I lived in a neighborhood northeast of Bristol Park and got the same 25 inches of rain that they received and was in a non-flood zone as well. Water backed up into the back of my house and I had water damage as well. I guess maybe I should sue the privacy fence company that install my fence for not allowing for proper drainage of the water as well. Maybe J.J. Talbott could help me with this. It’s unfortunate but a natural disaster that could not have been foreseen.

  11. Rich on September 25th, 2017 4:53 am

    Escambia County has already purchased some of these properties from the owners after they rebuilt from insurance money. If they receive money from International Paper they be required to pay Escambia back?

  12. Jane Doe on September 25th, 2017 2:09 am

    Glad justice may finally forthcoming.

    To add insult to injury, the powers that be waited for these residents to repair their flooded homes, which most had NO flood insurance, then decided to write a grant to have the wetlands restored.

    Which means the residents “must” sell their homes to the county for the grant program and their homes will be demolished to allow wetland restoration. How awful!! They just went in debt thousands of dollars to repair their homes. Why didn’t the county offer to purchase before all these people went into horrible debt to repair their homes???

    Can’t catch a break if you live in this neighborhood!!!





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