Historic Flood? Not the City’s Fault.


By: Bart Gary and Stephanie Stewart

No one in the greater Atlanta area will forget the devastating and deadly floods in September 2009, which spawned a great deal of litigation.  One such case finally found its way to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which characterized the flooding event as one of “historic proportions.”  The Plaintiff sought to hold the City of Lafayette liable in negligence for property damages caused by the flooding event on September 21, 2009.  In an effort to overcome the obvious obstacle presented by the “historic event,” the property owner relied upon a legal short cut known as res ipsa loquitur.  This Latin term translates, “the thing speaks for itself;” meaning that the loss is such that it could not have happened but for the negligence of the Defendant.  Although it is a short cut, the Plaintiff must prove that the injury was caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the Defendant.  Accordingly, the Court held that September 21, 2009 flooding event of “historic proportions” was an intermediary cause that was not in the exclusive control of the City.  As such, the Plaintiff could not recover damages.  The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is controversial and is often invoked, but seldom receives treatment from Courts.  It seems that it would not apply to acts of God, including unusual flooding events.
Battlefield Investments, Inc. v. City of Lafayette, 756 S.E.2d 639 (Ga. Ct. App. 2014)