Teague & Zelliff Attorneys Sue Municipalities Over Georgia Stormwater Drainage

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The recent floods of September 2009 in the Atlanta area were caused by historic rains and were worsened by lack of planning for urban Georgia stormwater drainage. Even following the flooding many North Georgia counties and municipalities are still failing to enforce new storm water regulations that the state has required. These regulations place management of detention facilities in subdivisions with homeowner associations to pay for the costs of maintenance. Teague & Zeliff, LLC, a law firm with offices in the North Atlanta area, has started to file a number of civil court cases against counties and cities that are refusing to enforce their storm water drainage laws.

Teague & Zeliff Law Firm Team

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The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning Protection District Act was enacted to strengthen post development storm water regulations under a law adopted by the Georgia General Assembly in 2001. As a result of the Act, the state formed the North Georgia Water Planning Protection District, which was charged with planning ordinances and policies to be enacted by local governments. The purpose of the policies and ordinances was to preserve water quality and protect water resources in North Georgia. The Act was not only designed to prevent declines in water quality from urban runoff, but was also meant to stop harm from Georgia stormwater drainage due to the rapid runoff from home building and commercial development in the North Atlanta area.

Local governments that have changed their local ordinances as a consequence of new water quality and drainage standards included some in North Fulton County, Forsyth County, Cobb County, Douglas County, and Gwinnett County. Such local governments included the cities of Alpharetta, Roswell, Johns Creek, Milton, Sandy Springs, and Cumming, Georgia. Areas to the North including Dawson County and Pickens County are part of a different water planning district in the process of formation. Local governments, in the 16 county District, are now faced with the issue of enforcing the regulations in model ordinances proposed and drafted by the District. These ordinances have been in various states of adoption throughout the various districts.

However, the flooding occurring due to the end of the drought were caused at least in part by foot dragging and politics. City and county governments have been reluctant to enforce some of the provisions of the new laws that would place responsibility for enforcement of the new water quality and flooding standards on homeowner associations. As a consequence, the government is leaving enforcement and interpretation issues to individual homeowners, to lawyers and to other injured civil litigants faced with flooding and drainage concerns. The effect of the lack of enforcement by the governments that are paid for that service has been to increase litigation and court cases regarding the scope and interpretation of the Act and ordinances under it. Many jurisdictions are particularly reluctant to take the unpopular step of enforcing the Act against homeowners associations with aging and deteriorating detention ponds. Several law firms in the area have developed an emphasis in litigation involving development. Teague & Zeliff, LLC, a law firm with offices in the North Atlanta area, is one law firm that has started to file a number of civil court cases against counties and cities that are refusing to enforce their laws.

Recently, attorneys at Teague & Zeliff, LLC have filed Georgia stormwater drainage cases against the City of Atlanta, Georgia (Camp Creek Investment Venture Limited vs. City of Atlanta, Georgia, et al.; Civil Action File No. 2006-CV-124235 (Fulton County Superior Court)) and jurisdictions in North Georgia including Forsyth County (David Woods and Elaine Woods vs. Polo Golf and Country Club Homeowners Association, Inc. & Forsyth County; Civil Action File No. 07CV-1901 (Forsyth County Superior Court)) and the City of Alpharetta (Larry and Diane Scharfstein v. Waters Mill Homeowners Association, Inc. and City of Alpharetta, Georgia; Civil Action File No. 2008-CV-160529 (Fulton County Superior Court)). Other law firms that specialize in this area of litigation are also beginning to file an increasing number of lawsuits against responsible parties, which may include developers and home builders that created flooding conditions due to the addition of hard or impervious surfaces. The recession and hard times for the home construction industry, however, have forced the legal industry to look to other responsible parties that are more solvent.    

Insurance companies are responding to the new suits by denying claims and coverage extended to associations, builders, and developers. Insurers for associations, builders, and developers see the area of litigation as a potential loss area that will hurt their profits in coming years if they honor their insurance policies by covering the claims. In pending suits, insurers are threatening declaratory judgments and claim denials in order to force lower settlements paid to plaintiffs and to force their own customers to fund all or part of the settlements. Their customers, the defendant builders, developers, and homeowners are often left confused by the lack of coverage and have blamed the lawyers representing the injured landowners for their own insurance companies' profit management decisions to deny coverage.

If the drought is over and if the North Georgia region has returned to historical rainfall patterns, then the courts will be faced with a number of these environmental suits in the future, which may include claims for nuisance and violations of the Clean Water Act of 1972.

This is a paid press release for Teague & Zeliff, LLC and constitutes the opinions of attorneys. While the attorneys that are responsible for writing this release believe every opinion stated herein to true, no part of this release is intended to provide legal advice or an offer to represent clients. If a person reading this release believes that he has a claim for coverage, then he should contact attorneys who have experience in this area. There are a number of such attorneys in the Atlanta area.

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