State Supreme Court Rules Dam Failure Lawsuits Against State Can Proceed

Lawsuits against the state of Michigan related to the failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams have been allowed to continue moving forward following a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision.

The state has attempted to have the lawsuits dismissed, which claim “inverse condemnation” or state-imposed property damage. Property owners affected by the failures and subsequent flooding say some blame belongs with the state, after regulators told the private owner of the hydroelectric dam on the Tittabawassee River to raise water levels in Wixom Lake, a reservoir behind the dam.

A recent court judgement also found former owner of the dams, Boyce Hydroelectric and it’s owner Lee Mueller, liable for nearly $120 million in environmental damages.

Earlier this year, an appeals court noted a 2020 Michigan Supreme Court decision about state liability in the Flint water crisis, and the recent decision reflects that opinion. A 2022 report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the dam failures were “foreseeable and preventable” but could not be “attributed to any one individual, group or organization.”