Georgia Local Government Drainage Liability: Nuisance and Trespass

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The landowner sued for trespass, nuisance, takings, and inverse condemnation.

November 29, 2021
David R. Cook Jr. - Autry, Hall & Cook, LLP

A long-running dispute between a landowner and a municipality has escalated to the Georgia Court of Appeals and in the federal court for the Northern District of Georgia.[1] The municipality maintained a stormwater system that discharged on property uphill from the landowner’s property. The uphill property was used as an illegal dump, and debris washed downhill from the dump to the landowner’s property. The debris clogged the landowner’s surface water drainage system, which caused flooding of the property and a building.

State Case
The landowner sued for trespass, nuisance, takings, and inverse condemnation. While the other claims were barred by the four-year statute of limitations, the court addressed the plaintiff-landowner’s claim for continuing nuisance.

Municipalities may be liable when they negligently construct or maintain a sewer or drainage system that causes repeated flooding of property, such that it results in a continuing, abatable nuisance.[2] For a municipality to be liable for maintenance of a nuisance:

the municipality must be chargeable with performing a continuous or regularly repetitious act, or creating a continuous or regularly repetitious condition, which causes the hurt, inconvenience or injury; the municipality must have knowledge or be chargeable with notice of the dangerous condition; and, if the municipality did not perform an act creating the dangerous condition, . . . the failure of the municipality to rectify the dangerous condition must be in violation of a duty to act.[3]

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