Jury Award Restored in West Virginia Flood Case

November 17, 2014

The West Virginia Supreme Court has ordered the restoration of monetary damages to Huntington homeowners hit by flooding in 2011.

The high court ruled Thursday in an appeal brought by five plaintiffs along Krouts Creek, The Herald-Dispatch reported.

Last year a Wayne County jury ruled the city was negligent when it failed to maintain a water control system along the creek, causing water to back up and flood the Spring Valley area. The jury awarded more than $1 million to residents for the lost value of their property and to make necessary repairs.

A circuit judge had removed the money allocated for home repairs, prompting the appeal to the Supreme Court.

The high court ruled that the jury was given incorrect instructions based on a misinterpretation of prior case law. The circuit judge had given instructions that, should the jury rule in the homeowners’ favor, it should award money either for repair of the homes or the lost property value, not both.

The justices indicated the state’s guidelines for such cases needs to be clarified. The Supreme Court ruled no specific formula should be applied to property damage cases and common sense should be used to determine if there’s an overlap with the cost of repairs and the loss of property value.

The court ruled that didn’t happen in the Spring Valley case because the homes will still have a diminished property value even after they are repaired.

Johnathan Marshall, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the majority of the Spring Valley cases had been settled previously because most plaintiffs did not want to go through with the appeals process.

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