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Lawsuit against city for Plaza Towers flood damage reinstated | News

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Lawsuit against city for Plaza Towers flood damage reinstated
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The city of Grand Rapids was dealt a setback today with a Court of Appeals decision that reinstates a lawsuit filed by Plaza Towers for more than $7 million in damages caused during epic flooding in April, 2013.

Owners of the 32-story high-rise sued the city last year, claiming a pedestrian walkway cut into the flood wall contributed to river water inundating its parking garage.

A Kent County judge dismissed the case in August, saying a one-paragraph clause in a 1989 sewer agreement protects the city from litigation, even if the original signers are no longer connected with Plaza Towers.

In a 6-page decision released today, the Court of Appeals determined otherwise.

"Because the property claims in this case are wholly unrelated to the sewer, and instead arise from the city's work on the flood wall, we conclude that Plaza Towers is not barred'' from seeking damages, the 3-judge panel wrote in a unanimous decision.

The case was argued before the Appeals Court on Dec. 2. Unless the city appeals to the Michigan Supreme Court, it will head back to Kent County Circuit Court for disposition.

Plaza Towers is among the more noteworthy casualties of epic rains that caused widespread flooding across Michigan. The Grand River downtown crested at 21.8 feet on April 21, 2013, nearly four feet above flood stage.

A day earlier, Plaza Towers was evacuated when a pressure relief valve failed, allowing millions of gallons of river water to be "shot'' underneath the concrete structure, Plaza Towers attorney Stephen P. Afendoulis said.

"The sewer agreement has absolutely nothing to do with this case,'' he argued before Appeals Court justices earlier this month. "The rains came, it went through the hole, the holding tank filled and it ruptured.''

City attorney Dennis Kolenda contends a 1989 contract with United Development specifically protects the city from claims linked to the sewer main running beneath the property at 201 W. Fulton Street.

"How many times are we going to rewrite this agreement to satisfy Plaza Towers?'' he asked. "We have an agreement that stood for 25 years and 25 years later they say our predecessors couldn't have possible agreed to this. But they did.''

Ground was broken on the high rise in Sept. 1988. When it opened in 1991, the structure – called Eastbank Towers, was the tallest building in Grand Rapids.


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