After a 14-day trial, a jury has found that the Truckee Carson Irrigation District failed to properly maintain the Truckee Canal and is liable for damages suffered by hundreds of Fernley residents during the 2008 flood.
“The jury’s verdict sends a strong message to irrigation districts that they must maintain their project works, especially in areas of increased urbanization,” Patrick Leverty, a lawyer for the victims, said in a statement. “This verdict shows that justice has been done.”
The civil case, heard by Senior Justice Miriam Shearing in the Third Judicial District Court, is one of a handful of class-actions lawsuits filed by victims who were impacted by floodwaters that breached the canal, sending waves through Fernley neighborhoods on Jan. 5, 2008.
Shearing set a status conference for Aug. 30 to discuss the damages phase of the case against the district. The victims are seeking compensation for personal and real property lost or damaged when the embankment failed, said their lawyer, Robert Maddox.
In January, victims who sued Lyon County and district board members received their share of a $10 million settlement.
In that case, the plaintiffs claimed Fernley and Lyon County were negligent by failing to maintain drainage and infrastructure, Leverty said.
About 40 feet of an irrigation canal levee collapsed Jan. 5, 2008, in Fernley, damaging about 600 homes. Residents fled from flooded homes; some were evacuated from their rooftops by helicopters.
The breach of the canal spewed walls of water from 2 to 8 feet high that left 3,500 people temporarily stranded across a square mile. The Bureau of Reclamation blamed burrowing rodents and inadequate maintenance.
President George W. Bush declared portions of Fernley a national disaster area, providing more than $1.75 million in federal assistance to the victims.
In the jury trial that ended Monday, Leverty said the jury found that the district “negligently maintained the Truckee Canal” and that negligence caused the embankment to fail.
Messages left with district officials were not immediately returned.
The district had argued that it was not informed about studies involving internal erosion.
But the jury found that the district was repeatedly alerted that repairs needed to be done, Leverty said.
“Despite being told repeatedly to repair the embankment, TCID did not consider it a priority and never repaired any rodent holes in the Truckee Canal along the urbanized area of Fernley,” he said.
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