Appeals court reverses decision to dismiss residents' suit blaming Toledo Bend Dam for increased flooding

By Gabriel Neves | Jan 30, 2019

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana's First Circuit Court of Appeal recently reinstated a lawsuit filed by several residents living along the Sabine River in Vernon and Beauregard parishes who claimed construction of the Toledo Bend Dam resulted in increased flooding to their homes.

In an opinion issued Dec. 27, the appeals court reversed the decision of the East Baton Rouge Parish 19th District Court to dismiss the lawsuit filed against the state of Louisiana's Sabine River Authority (SRA-L) by the residents. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of the lawsuit first granted by the lower court, after it sustained the authority's exception that alleged the homeowners had no cause of action.

The residents sued the authority claiming construction of the dam caused changes in the Sabine River that increased risk of flooding that could damage the homes. "In March. 2017, plaintiffs filed a petition for compensation for taking of property, in which they alleged that the erection of the Toledo Bend Dam by the SRA -L" caused problems with their properties continuing to flood, court filings said.

The group also alleged that "SRA -L's actions causing changes to the river and the resultant flooding constituted a taking of their property without formal expropriation proceedings and without just compensation, in violation of Article I, § 4 of the Louisiana Constitution," court filings said.

SRA-L filed a notice of removal to a federal court on April 2017, but the court denied the notice, alleging lack of jurisdiction and  remanding the case back to the state court.

The appeals court ruling said, "Accepting the allegations of the plaintiffs' petition as true, and in light of the strong presumption against federal preemption, we cannot say that the SRA -L carried its burden of proving that plaintiffs' petition fails to state a cause of action."

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