RENO, Nev. (AP) - Reno city officials said they have reached a tentative agreement to pay $4.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by residents whose homes in the community of Lemmon Valley were flooded north of town in 2017 after the city diverted excess storm water into a local lake basin.
The city council is expected to approve the payment on May 12 after announcing the agreement last week, which would resolve all existing state and federal lawsuits, the Reno Gazette Journal reported.
Donna Robinson, one of the original Lemmon Valley property owners who sued Reno, said residents are generally relieved the legal battle is ending.
“Some of the residents are happy they’re getting some money,” Robinson told KOLO-TV. “There should have been more, but we know how the settlement process works.”
A judge ordered the city on March 15 to pay $1.1 million to three Lemmon Valley residents for damages plus interest for four years of court fees. They will receive their payouts as part of the $4.5 million the city will pay to settle the 30 claims in state and federal court.
More than 60 homes in Lemmon Valley were damaged in 2017 when the city pumped or diverted excess storm water into the Swan Lake basin following unusually heavy rainf on top of heavy snowpack.
A jury in 2019 found the city was responsible for the flooding and should be responsible for paying financial damages to residents.
Though still liable for the damages, the city moved in 2020 to decertify the class of homeowners that banded together for the class action lawsuit.
City officials argued that having the claim declared a class lawsuit did not serve the interest of justice and each resident needed to provide proof of how much they had suffered financially because of the damages to their homes.
Washoe District Judge Barry Breslow ruled in favor of the city and to decertify the class, but rejected city officials’ arguments that compensation should be limited to the rental value of the properties. He said residents should be reimbursed for the rental value at the time of the flooding, plus damages, relocation costs and attorneys’ fees.
“This global settlement is a significant step forward for proper stewardship of our delicate ecosystem in the North Valleys and underscores the importance of our ongoing efforts regarding sustainability in the Biggest Little City,” the city of Reno said in the statement announcing the settlement last week.
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