The Ottumwa Courier


May 2, 2014

Iowa supreme court finds for city in flood suit

OTTUMWA — The Iowa Supreme Court has sided with the City of Ottumwa in reversing a jury’s decision awarding an Ottumwa couple more than $80,000.

David and Julie Garr filed suit against the city in October 2010 after their home was flooded. The Garrs live at 3105 N. Court, near the Cedar Creek Golf Course. The Garrs say Little Cedar Creek rose above its banks occasionally before 2002, the year in which they waterproofed and remodeled their home’s basement, but that in 2004 the problem worsened significantly.

According to the ruling, the Garrs “estimated that between 2004 and 2010, they had water in their basement at least 100 different times.” One of those, in 2008, saw the water fill the basement to its ceiling.

The worst, though, was on Aug. 20, 2010, when extreme rains caused the creek to flood over Highway 63 and as high as the doorknob on the Garr home.

The Garrs sued the city, saying the flooding worsened due to the city’s approval of the Quail Creek Addition and mismanagement of runoff from the addition and the golf course. A jury agreed and awarded the Garrs $84,400.

Attorneys for Ottumwa asked the court several times for a directed verdict on the case, then for a “judgement notwithstanding the verdict,” a ruling in which the court essentially says the jury got it wrong. The district court rejected those requests.

The Iowa Supreme Court didn’t entirely side with the city. The appeal didn’t claim the Garrs failed to establish that he city was in breach of its responsibilities, so the court assumed “for the purposes of this appeal that the City breached its duty of care.”


But the specifics of the August 20, 2010 flooding were what the court focused on. It ruled on only one of the city’s several points in the appeal: whether the city’s actions caused the flooding.

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