Judge finds US liable for damages incurred during Hurricane Harvey

A federal judge has found that the federal government is liable for some damage related to Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas and Louisiana in 2017, causing severe flooding.

Judge Charles Lettow determined Tuesday that the government must compensate people for flooding caused by the Army Corps of Engineers’ reservoir management following the storm. 

The George W. Bush appointee ruled that storing excess water on plaintiffs’s property amounted to “taking” it, meaning the government owed them compensation. 


“The evidence markedly shows that pools of this size and the attendant flooding of private property were, at a minimum, objectively foreseeable,” Lettow wrote. “Thus, Harvey’s magnitude does not exculpate the government of liability for its actions.”

Daniel Charest, an attorney representing the property owners, said in a statement that his clients were “innocent victims” of government decisions.

“The government intentionally flooded these private homes and businesses to save downtown Houston,” Charest said in a statement. 

“As the court noted, the government was responsible for creating an emergency, and these citizens were the innocent victims of those calculated decisions. We look forward to pushing the case through the damages phase and achieving justice for the upstream flood victims,” he added.

A Justice Department spokesperson told The Hill in an email that it was reviewing the ruling, but declined to comment further.

—Updated at 12:34 p.m.

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