Case update: On September 7, 2023, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the State of Michigan is not immune from prosecution for the May 2020 failure of the Edenville, Secord, and Sandford dams. This crucial victory means that FeganScott can continue its fight to hold the State responsible for the dam disaster. FeganScott will now begin the discovery process of seeking documents and testimony to support its case.
FeganScott filed a national class-action suit on behalf of a group of residents and business owners against the operators of the Edenville, Sanford and Secord Dams and three Michigan state agencies for what is described as a cataclysmic set of decisions that led to the breach of the Sanford and Secord dams and the collapse of the Edenville dam in May 2020, causing homes and businesses to be destroyed.
The suit claimed dam owner Boyce Hydro, along with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes Energy and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, failed to operate, fix, or repair the dams in accordance with the established standard of care, resulting in catastrophic injury and damage to residents and their properties.
In July 2020, the dam owners, Boyce Hydro Power, LLC and Boyce Hydro, LLC filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. As a result, all pending litigation against the dam owners is stayed.
The Boyce entities set aside a fund to pay claims on behalf of home and landowners injured by the dam failures, and for the costs of administering the fund. Currently, the Liquidating Trustee, overseen by the bankruptcy court, is working to establish a process by which claims are evaluated and compensated.
State of Michigan Litigation
FeganScott also filed a separate case against the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes Energy and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in the Court of Claims on August 11, 2020.
Noted in published accounts, the dams’ breach began on May 18 as flood water rose after recent rainfall, forcing thousands of people to evacuate. The lawsuit alleges that the state departments are at fault for the dams’ failure, having ignored warnings from federal regulators and neglected blatant, high-risk issues.
According to the complaint, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) repeatedly warned the operators of the dangers of the 95-year old Edenville Dam, including the risk of catastrophic erosion.
In 2018, the Edenville Dam operator’s license was revoked for failure to address safety issues, putting the dams under the oversight of the state departments.
Since the case was filed, the state has argued that it should be immune from the suit. On May 21, 2021, the Court of Claims held that the state of Michigan was not immune from prosecution. On September 7, 2023, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the state is not immune from prosecution in this matter.
Residents and business owners who are interested in learning more about this class-action suit are urged to send their contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.