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Flowery Branch business owners sue railroad over flood damages

POSTED: May 15, 2014 12:46 a.m.

Two Flowery Branch business owners have filed suit seeking compensation from the Norfolk Southern Railway Co. for flooding damages that wreaked havoc on their property.

On May 19, 2013, heavy rains flooded Flowery Branch Creek and rainwater backed up into the Wayne Center and lake behind the property, called Waynes’ Lake.

In the complaint and demand for a jury trial filed May 8 in Hall County Superior Court, brothers Mike and Alan Wayne and Wayne Brothers Inc. alleged the railroad company, owned by co-defendant Norfolk Southern Corp., modified a culvert structure to their detriment. The culverts allow free flow of water into Lake Lanier.

The 18,000-square-foot space was home to nine tenants, all of which have been relocated, owners said.

“The rainwater caused significant damage to Plaintiff’s properties and persons, loss of rental income, and will cause permanent diminution in value of the properties if the Defendants fail to restore or replace the culverts they closed,” the complaint read.

The Georgia Department of Transportation cited the culverts in a statement on the May downpour: “Drainage pipes meant to redirect rainwater away from the roadway are underwater,” officials said in explanation of the Ga. 13 flooding.

City officials said the water level on the city side of the tracks was about 10 feet higher than on the lake side.

Paul Hoffman, attorney for the plaintiffs, wrote that the company made the misguided modification in March 2013, replacing the three culverts with one larger opening without permission or approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The original culverts were built in 1957.

The actions of the company were negligent, the plaintiffs said, acting in “reckless disregard for the consequences of their actions.”

Officials had reported in April 2013 that three culverts underneath the train track west of the city were in need of repair or replacement after being found to have washed out, or failing to control groundwater or stormwater.

The plaintiffs are asking for the company to say who modified the culvert, with an explanation of why and when. Additionally, they requested any documents discussing “lost revenue for you if repair work was not performed on the causeway in 2013.”

The Waynes are also asking the court to order immediate and future relief to prevent possible flooding in the future.

“Defendants have acted in bad faith and been stubbornly litigious ...” the complaint further alleged. The brothers are asking for an award of punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

A response has not yet been filed by Norfolk, and a spokesman for the company said he could not comment on pending litigation. By Georgia code, the company has 45 days from the date the suit was filed to respond.


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