Class action lawsuit targets owner of failed dam, seeks money for victims

MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) (05/22/2020) Historic water levels, buildings destroyed, thousands displaced and four counties under a state disaster declaration. It's the impact of this week's devastating floods and failed infrastructure intended to stop them.

That has countless homeowners, businesses and everyday people tallying up some unimaginable losses and now, has brought about a class action lawsuit intended to get them justice.

“Our goal in this is to ensure… they’re held accountable,” related Frank Petosa, an attorney with Morgan & Morgan, one of the firms set to argue the case.

Victims of the rising waters brought on by the failure of Edenville Dam have filed a class action lawsuit against the dam’s owner, Boyce Hydro LLC.

“This should not have happened if these companies had done their job to properly and safely maintain the dams,” argued Petosa.

Filed in US district court by four homeowners from Midland and Saginaw counties, the suit argues the dam owner’s negligence lead to their homes being destroyed. The filing marks the latest in a snowballing number of legal claims filed as the flood water begins to recede and, says Petosa, one of two to seek class action status.

“We’re seeking class certification to ensure all residents… in Gladwin, Midland and Saginaw Counties have the right be compensated.”

Tuesday, days of heavy rain overwhelmed the allegedly crumbling Edenville Dam, causing it to fail and send billions of gallons of water rushing downstream, where it inundated entire neighborhoods.

“It’s horrific to think that you’re in your home in the unfortunate pandemic that every one of us is dealing with… you’re forced to be evacuated and put yourself in harm’s way,” related Petosa.

In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the dam’s permit to generate power, citing a history of unresolved safety issues and specifically, its inability to handle a flood event. Now under the state’s oversight, owners continued to clash with regulators, including in a lawsuit filed just weeks before the dam breached.

Despite repeated attempts by ABC 12 to get in touch with Boyce Hydro LLC, they have yet to return our calls.

“You have a bad actor like this that isn’t taking the necessary steps,” started Petosa. “They’re putting profits over safety.”

In the 41-page lawsuit, attorneys with Morgan & Morgan, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Jenner Law P.C. name specifically Boyce Hydro, its subsidiaries and owner Lee Mueller. Arguing they’d been warned for years and are responsible for the resulting damage.

“We’re going to do everything we can to use the legal system to ensure they’re fully compensated for their losses and that these companies are held fully responsible,” vowed Petosa.

The lawsuit is seeking not only damages, but also exemplary or punitive damages to hold companies like Boyce Hydro accountable. If that class action status is approved, those damages would trickle down to every affected homeowner, business owner and individual.

For more information, a link to the suit’s newly established website has been posted below.