MUSCLE SHOALS — Two homeowners in the Cornelius Landing subdivision claim in a civil lawsuit the developer's inaction during the February flooding caused water from an adjacent retention pond to enter their homes and cause extensive damage.
Plaintiffs William and Courtney Snipes and Jesse P. Young have filed suit against Cornelius Landing subdivision developer William D. "Sonny" Cornelius III, Cornelius Landing LLC, and engineer Larry Black.
The suit was filed Monday in Colbert County Circuit Court by Florence attorney Jonathan K. McGee.
According to the suit, the homeowners are seeking damages in excess of $100,000, and are also seeking punitive damages to be deemed appropriate by a jury.
"The only message we're really trying to get across is we've done a lot of research and investigation into this," McGee said. "It's not something we're throwing together. We did an investigation before we decided to file suit."
McGee said the plaintiffs hired a private civil engineering and firm specializing in hydrology to study data from the rainfall and runoff events between Feb. 19 and Feb. 23.
The study indicated that the individual rainfall events were "within the rainfall rates and design criteria as stated in the City of Muscle Shoals Code of Ordinances" section related to "Design Criteria."
The study also indicated that the analysis of the Feb. 23 flooding event was caused by insufficient storage in the "retention/detention" area in the subdivision.
Prior storms, the study indicated, consumed available storage area in the pond. The study indicates there was "inadequate infiltration" to adequately drain the pond.
The subsequent flooding event on Feb. 23 caused water to enter the homes of the families at 102 and 108 Dee Drive, and damage the structure and furnishings. McGee said the pond is located directly behind the homes of the plaintiffs.
The suit also states that between Feb. 19 and Feb. 23, "defendants had at least one person onsite at the retention/detention area."
McGee said those individuals should have known the pond would likely overflow into the plaintiffs' property. He said pumps should have been brought in by the developer to reduce the level of the pond so it could retain additional rainfall and runoff.
Cornelius said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he has not received a copy.
William Snipes said he would allow McGee to act as his spokesman, but Young briefly discussed what happened on Feb. 23.
"We were forced out of our home that Saturday during the last rain event," Young said. "We stayed at a friend's house."
Young said he and his friend came back to the house Saturday night and discovered water had entered his home, damaging the floors, baseboard, cabinets and about 18 inches of drywall.
"After that it took them two or three days before they got a pump over there to even get it lower," Young said.
He and his two children stayed elsewhere for nearly two months while a company used dehumidifiers and industrial fans to dry out the interior of the house. He said it took about a month to dry out the interior.
"Our power bill was almost $1,000," Young said. "Everything was paid for out of pocket."
McGee said the city of Muscle Shoals is not named as a defendant.
However, the suit includes a "Notice of Proposed Claim" against the city, which allows the plaintiffs to preserve a claim against the city and amend their complaint to include the city, if necessary, within the next 30 days.
In a letter to Muscle Shoals City Clerk Ricky Williams, McGee said he hopes the city engineer can speak to Cornelius and Black about fixing the flooding problem, and encouraging him to install a permanent pump to alleviate the potential for future flooding.
He said the plaintiffs have also suffered a loss of property value as a result of the flood.