Southeast Texas Record

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

5th Circuit upholds dismissal of flooding case against Houston, Memorial City Redevelopment Authority

By Charmaine Little | Jun 6, 2018


NEW ORLEANS – The claims of Houston residents impacted by flooding fell short as a federal court said they didn’t show sufficient evidence that the city and related parties were to blame for their damaged properties.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled May 22 to affirm the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas' decision to dismiss the suit against Reinvestment Zone Number 17 of the city of Houston, Memorial City Redevelopment Authority and the City of Houston.

Plaintiffs Residents Against Flooding, Anita Giezentanner, Virginia Gregory and Lois Myers filed an appeal after the Southern District court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. In their initial lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged the commencement and delay of several projects led to flooding on their properties in April 2009, May 2015 and April 2016.

The Appeals Court explained why it affirmed the lower court’s decision.

It first pointed out the plaintiffs didn’t properly state their substantive due course of law and substantive due process claims. While the plaintiffs alleged the defendants’ performance, or lack thereof, of the projects caused flooding on their homes and interfered with their constitutional rights of using their home, the Appeals Court determined, “the plaintiffs have not adequately pleaded that government conduct implicated a constitutionally protected right,” according to the opinion.

The court stated that the projects in question didn’t include the properties the plaintiffs owned. It also stated the plaintiffs alleged infringed upon right to use their homes was too ambiguous. Even if the projects did infringe on the plaintiffs’ rights, the plaintiffs didn’t properly raise their due process claims as the projects are of governmental interest, the Appeals Court determined.

In the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, they also claimed the defendants’ actions flooded their homes and sparked an “unreasonable seizure” of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, the opinion states. The Appeals Court determined the plaintiffs also didn’t properly state this claim as a seizure claim must include a deliberate action. This one fell short for the plaintiffs as the projects in question didn’t include any changes their properties. The Appeals Court stated even if it did, the plaintiffs would have to prove the subsequent actions were intentional. Instead, the actual purpose of the projects was to better the zone and the city.

Considering this, the Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s decision and dismissed the case.

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City of HoustonU.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit