Attorneys for 2020 flood victims urge government lawyers to stop delaying civil lawsuits
This week marks the third anniversary of a devastating flood in Gladwin and Midland counties.
On May 19, 2020, the aging Sanford and Edenville dams failed, as heavy rains swelled local rivers. The ensuing torrent of water forced thousands of people downstream to flee their homes. The flood heavily damaged homes and businesses, as well as washing away roads and bridges. No one died.
Edenville resident Michael Callan is one of many people still trying to recover from the flood. The home he and wife planned to retire in remains damaged beyond repair.
“A little bit of help from the state of Michigan would go a long ways and probably help things out a little bit better, but right now it’s still tough,” said Callan.
Callan is one of hundreds of people suing the state and federal government for their flood related damages.
But the residents’ attorneys complain government lawyers are delaying their litigation by making claims of “governmental immunity.”
Attorney Ven Johnson represents hundreds of people suing the state and federal governments.
“After three years you would think that someone from the state of Michigan would step forward other than defend, deny and delay,” Johnson told reporters Thursday.
The Michigan Attorney General’s office has suggested the state may be protected by “governmental immunity”.
Michigan Attorney General's office spokesperson Danny Wimmer said the trial court stayed the case while the appeal is pending. Plaintiffs, represented by Johnson, asked the trial court to lift the stay, but the court denied that request on Jan. 12. The appeal process has continued, with oral arguments heard from both parties by the court of appeals on April 12. Both parties now await the court of appeals to issue an opinion.
While the case remain mired in court, other recovery efforts are making slow progress.
The Four Lakes Task Force continues its work of repairing the dams. Task force officials hope to restore the four lakes drained by the flood by 2026.
This weekend, people in Sanford are marking the anniversary and the progress they’ve made restoring their community.
“Come look at the town and see where we have come back from and what we went through,” said Carl Hamann, Sanford Village councilperson.
Though Hamann is concerned unless other changes are made to infrastructure along the river’s path, his town could see another devastating flood in the future.