The family of a man killed in last year’s Christmas floods has sued San Bernardino County, Calif., and KOA Kampgrounds for failing to alert him of the impending danger, according to a report in the San Bernardino Sun.
In the lawsuit filed last Thursday (Dec. 2), the late Carol Nuss’ family claimed the county and campground, along with the state of California, knew that a predicted rainstorm could cause a flash flood on hillsides that were still tender from wildfires two months earlier.
No one relayed that message, however, to residents of Devore or Waterman Canyon before a heavy storm dumped several inches of rain upon them, said the plaintiff’s attorney, C. Michael Alder. Mud, rock and trees rushed down the hills, killing 16 people, including 11 children.
The suit cites negligence, dangerous conditions of public property, failure to discharge a mandatory duty and a public employee’s omission causing injury. Its main focus, though, is aimed at failed communication between the county and the campground, Alder said.
“Between the two of them, it was agreed that something had to be done but nothing happened,” said Alder, whose office is in Beverly Hills. “It’s a terrible tragedy. The thing is, all of these people could have been evacuated within plenty of time with the information they had.”
David Wert, spokesman for the county, had not seen the suit and declined to comment. The county already rejected more than 50 claims filed over the summer. Filing claims was necessary for those intent on filing lawsuits.
Representatives for the KOA Kampground and the state were not immediately available for comment Monday (Dec. 6).
Nuss, 57, of Wellington, Kan., was staying in Devore while conducting insurance adjustments.
Also joining in the lawsuit are a few dozen others who sustained injuries from the debris flows or lost property when they roared through their neighborhoods.
Additional lawsuits are anticipated because damage caused by the debris flows was so extensive.
Curt Metzgar, a Rancho Cucamonga attorney representing eight people who lost property, said on Monday he would file suit against the county before the one-year anniversary.
“You expect them to deny the claims and then flush it all out in litigation,” Metzgar said. “They may want to settle … or they may not. We’ll have to see.'”