Oregon Couple, Water District Sued Over Fatal 2015 Slide

December 7, 2016

Two sons of an Oregon woman killed when a mudslide plowed through her home last winter are seeking nearly $10 million in a lawsuit filed against a couple and a utility district.

Delores Miller, 70, died Dec. 18, 2015, after part of a private road on her neighbor’s property north of Florence collapsed, causing debris to flow into her home during a rainstorm along the Oregon Coast, according to the lawsuit filed in Lane County last week by her sons, Stephen Miller and Keith Eldien.

The men assert the Heceta Water People’s Utility District failed to properly maintain a water line that runs beneath the road. The improper maintenance resulted in leakage that contributed to hazardous conditions, according to the lawsuit.

Moreover, the plaintiffs allege the neighbors, William and Gail Munzer, failed to install, maintain or repair drainage ditches, or take other steps to prevent landslide dangers on that section of property.

The Register-Guard reports the couple and the water district have yet to file a response to the lawsuit. Gail Munzer declined comment when reached by telephone by the newspaper and the water district did not return a phone message.

According to minutes from an emergency water district board meeting held five days after the slide, district officials acknowledged that the water line was compromised in the incident and that a leak existed somewhere above the slide area.

Delores Miller’s husband, Gary Miller, suffered minor injuries. He escaped the home with one of the couple’s two dogs. Firefighters recovered the body of the other dog.

The lawsuit says the home near Mercer Lake sustained “catastrophic physical damage.”

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