Supermarket Found Liable for Water Damage to Adjacent Property

(Courtesy of the Georgia Trial Reporter)

Case Caption:  Gary Kempler and Lynn Kempler v. Ingles Markets, Inc., Ingles Acquisition of Georgia, LLC a/k/a LAI Engineering and R.W. Smith Contractors
Case Number:  08-CV-1780-A
Court:  Hall County Superior Court
Verdict:  $1,421,120. Breakdown: $400,000 in actual damages for negligence;  $150,000 for the reduction in value of the property; $300,000 for the installation of measures to protect the property from future runoff; $125,000 in non-economic damages; $200,000 in punitive damages; and $246,120 in attorney’s fees.
Judge:  C. Andrew Fuller
Date of Verdict:  5/11/2010
Attorneys:
    Plaintiff:    
        Robert W. Chambers III, Gainesville
        J. Cale Rogers, Gainesville
        John R. Coleman Jr., Gainesville
    Defendant:    
        Samuel R. Arden, Atlanta (Ingles)
        Irene Vander Els, Atlanta (Ingles)
        Nicholas P. Panayotopoulos, Atlanta (LAI)
        Stephen J. Rapp, Atlanta (LAI)
        William A. Dinges, Decatur (R.W. Smith)
        Jason B. Schwartz, Decatur (R.W. Smith)

Facts:
A Hall County jury deliberated for approximately 6 hours before it awarded a couple $975,000 for damage to their property caused by storm water drainage runoff from a commercial lot.  In a second phase of deliberations, the jury found the defendants were also liable for attorney’s fees in the amount of $246,120 and $200,000 for punitive damages. The final judgment totaled $1,421,120.  The nearly five week trial was trifurcated and reported to be the longest jury trial in the history of Hall County.

Plaintiffs Gary Kempler and Lynn Kempler owned property on Winder Highway adjacent to the property where Defendant Ingles Markets, Inc. erected a supermarket in 2007.  Defendant LAI Engineering designed a detention pond at a supermarket shopping center to manage storm water runoff.

Plaintiffs alleged the pond was constructed and maintained improperly, resulting in erosion, sediment and silt on their property.  They claimed defendants’ acts or omissions in maintaining the pond constituted negligence and resulted in a six-fold increase in the amount of water flowing through plaintiffs’ property.  Plaintiffs’ argued that a pond on their property that had previously been used for swimming, for the horses and for irrigating plants was no longer usable.  They claimed the increased water burned out their pumps and wrecked their land.

Defendants disputed liability and argued that the water drainage plan was in accordance with state and county ordinances for storm water management.

Alleged Injury:  Severe erosion and sediment damage to real property due to improper storm water drainage.

Settlement Efforts:
 
    Last Demand: $510,000
    Last Offer: $300,000

Expert(s):
    Plaintiff:    
        Scott Gibbs
        Grading and Erosion – Atlanta , GA

        Phil Freshley
        Soil Testing – Atlanta, GA

        Brian A. Rindt
        Civil Engineer – Marietta, GA

        Larry D. Thomas
        Real Estate Appraiser – Snellville, GA

        Zachary Handach
        Civil Engineer – Marietta, GA

    Defendant:    
        Robert Kenney, P.E.
        Architectural Engineer – Atlanta, GA

        George T. Duncan
        Mediation – Atlanta, GA Gibbs, Scott
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