Will New Flood Case Mean a Flood of Damages Paid to a Flood of Plaintiffs? Supreme Court Denies Review of Paterno Decision

April 2004

California Water Law & Policy Reporter, Volume 14, Number 7

The recent decision by the California Supreme Court to deny review of Paterno v. State of California (Case No. S121713, March 17, 2004) holds not much good news for flood control agencies. The Supreme Court has declined to review a decision by the Third District Court of Appeal finding the State of California liable for damages to hundreds of plaintiffs injured when the Linda Levee collapsed in 1986 (Paterno v. State of California, 113 Cal.App.4th 998 (2003). See 14 Cal. Water L. & Pol’y Rptr. 123 (Jan. 2004); 13 Cal. Land Use L. & Pol’y Rptr. 102 (Jan. 2004). The Court of Appeal gives great lip service to the notion that flood control agencies are not insurers for the landowners within the agencies’ boundaries. However, the Court of Appeal’s language and analysis suggests exactly the opposite when it found that individual landowners were un fairly bearing the burden of flood control agencies’ decisions in regard to the construction and maintenance of flood control projects.

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