By: Rob Harris
Confronted with the physical reality that water flows downhill, the downhill situated Williams family nonetheless tried to hold the uphill situated Portage Country Club responsible for flooding that caused a basement wall in their Akron, Ohio home to collapse.
Recently, an Ohio appeals court rejected this argument, holding that, on the issues presented, Mr. and Ms. Williams had presented no factual basis to support their claims.
As the court noted,
“By all accounts, the storm in July 2013 was severe and caused widespread flooding. Based on his review of newspaper articles and national weather service reports, Portage Country Club’s expert characterized the storm as a ‘flash flood.’ The assistant superintendent for the golf course was deposed and stated that he encountered multiple roads that were closed due to water from the storm that day. Comparing two storms that he experienced while living at 169 Hollywood, Mr. Williams testified in his deposition that, ‘in a short window of time, 2013 had much more water than 2011.’ He further testified that, following the 2013 storm, ‘many people that [he] spoke with said that they had water in their basement[s]’ and ‘[he]’d venture to say that half of Akron probably did.'”
The court rejected claims that the course caused the flooding by changing the topography when it expanded from a nine hole to an eighteen hole course in 1918 and that the storm drain was deficiently small to handle the floodwaters.d
Turning to the Williams other claim–that Portage Country Club had failed to appropriately maintain the catch basis–the court found that the claim was lacking in factual support. As the court explained,
“The Williamses make the conclusory assertion that ‘because there was a flood, the catch basin must have been clogged.’ They do not, however, point to any evidence in the record to support this assertion. … ‘The mere fact that damage occurred [is] not, in and of itself, proof of negligence.’… Moreover, the fact that something could be a cause does not establish that it actually was the cause in a given instance…”
The fact that the catch basis was clogged after the flooding did not establish that it was clogged before the flooding. Therefore, as the court held,
“Construing the evidence presented most strongly in favor of the Williamses, one could conclude that the catch basin was clogged following a flooding event in 2011 and again following a flooding event in 2013. But, as noted by the trial court, the Williamses presented ‘no evidence’ regarding ‘the state of the [c]atch [b]asin near in time or immediately prior to the July 10, 2013 storm.’ Having failed to present any evidence that the catch basin was clogged before the flooding, the Williamses have not demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact remained regarding the maintenance of the catch basin.”