Sioux Falls, S.D. Settling Suit over Sewer System

July 1, 2011

South Dakota’s largest city has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed after heavy rains caused its storm and sanitary sewer systems to fail in 2004, flooding dozens of Sioux Falls homes.

If a judge approves, a group of about 160 people will be able to tap into a fund of just under $2 million to recoup some of their losses. The money will come from the city’s insurer, the taxpayer-funded South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance, the Argus Leader newspaper reported.

“Justice has been finally done, but we had to go through a lot in the last seven years,” said Helen Reuss, one of the original plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Steve Johnson, said the city prolonged the lawsuit.

“They basically fought us every step of the way, arguing they didn’t have any liability,” he said.

City Attorney Dave Pfeifle had no comment, though he noted that Sioux Falls has spent tens of millions of dollars to improve its sewer system in recent years.

The settlement of the class-action lawsuit is not the only legal loss for the city stemming from the 2004 storms. Last year, a judge ruled that the city was liable for nearly $150,000 in damages that occurred to three other homes. Those homeowners already had sued by the time Reuss filed her lawsuit, which a judge eventually granted class-action status, enabling other homeowners with damage to join.

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