TRAVERSE CITY — A lawsuit filed by a group of Boardman River property owners over flooding caused by a breach during the removal of the Brown Bridge Dam has been moved to federal court.
The change was filed in 13th Circuit Court June 7 by attorneys Richard Baron and Brian Phinney, who represent the City of Traverse City, which is named as a defendant in the suit along with engineering firm AMEC, Molon Excavating and the Boardman River Dams Settlement Agreement Implementation Team.
The lawsuit filed by multiple Boardman River property owners claims the Oct. 6 breach during the dam’s removal caused floodwaters to damage their homes. It alleges an unconstitutional taking of the plaintiffs’ property with the inundation of floodwaters, increased likelihood of flooding and a substantial drop in property values.
The complaint cites a Supreme Court case that held a taking can occur with the release of water from a dam flooding downstream properties.
Baron said the removal is based on federal question jurisdiction.
They made a federal claim the way we read their complaint. We have to go by what they plead,” Baron said.
Kristyn Houle, an attorney for the plaintiffs, contends the defense attorneys misread the complaint.
“Just because you cite federal law does not invoke federal jurisdiction. You site the most recent case that is most similar to your case,” Houle said. “There is no federal question.”
She plans to file a motion to remand in attempt to bring the case back to state court.
“It belongs in Traverse City before a local jury because it’s a local matter,” she said.