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A ONCE –IN-A-LIFETIME STORM EVENT

Plaintiffs comprised of 12 homeowners and three business owners in Brooklyn, NY, claimed property and structural damage due to the flooding of their basements after a heavy rainstorm. Defendants, which included the local gas utility and a construction company sub-contracted by the utility, had previously dumped 70 cubic yards of sand in the vicinity of the damaged buildings, which they planned on using in a backfill operation. Plaintiffs claimed that the sand and runoff from the rainstorm, combined with the heavy rain, caused the storm drains to clog up, resulting in the flooded basements. Plaintiffs further contended that the City was negligent in maintaining the storm drains and catch basins.

At trial, defense attorneys called upon COMPUWEATHER meteorologists to examine the weather and explain to the jury what had occurred. By analyzing the magnitude of the rain which fell on the day of the flooding, and comparing it to historical standards, the COMPUWEATHER meteorologist concluded that the event was a “50-year 1-hour storm”. The amount of rain which poured down during a mere one hour’s time could only reasonably be expected to happen in Brooklyn about once every 50 years. Engineers for the City testified that the storm drain system was designed to handle “5-year storms”.

Based on the testimony that the storm was an extraordinary occurrence, the jury vote was 6-0 in favor of the defendants.