To protect a dam, the San Jacinto River Authority (River Authority), released a large amount of water during Hurricane Harvey. In doing so, the River Authority, a governmental entity, acknowledged the release would cause “devasting flooding downstream” but asserted it did not have the option to stop the release.
Landowners Claim River Authority Action Was a Taking of their Property
Claiming the release caused or exacerbated flooding of their properties, downstream landowners sued the River Authority. The landowners allege the decision to release the water constituted a taking of their property under Chapter 2007 of the Texas Government Code.
Case Can Proceed under Chapter 2007
In San Jacinto River Authority v. Medina, the Texas Supreme Court determined the case could proceed under Chapter 2007. A claim for taking under Chapter 2007 may be brought for physical taking as well as regulatory taking. Further, while the exceptions in Chapter 2007 may excuse the River Authority’s actions, the landowners pleaded the River Authority had other reasonable options, and the Court said the case should proceed to give the landowners the opportunity to develop facts to support those pleadings.
Dissent Argued Chapter 2007 Cannot Give Landowners any Relief
In dissent, one judge noted Chapter 2007 gives the River Authority the option to either pay damages or rescind any taking, should the landowners prevail. If the River Authority can still refuse to pay damages, even though it cannot rescind the actions it took during Harvey, the landowners have no realistic chance of getting any relief and the case should be dismissed. The majority rejected this argument, saying the Court should not speculate as to what the River Authority might do if the landowners prevail.
For the majority opinion https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1452068/190400.pdf For the dissent https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1452069/190400d.pdf