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Eagle Pointe homeowners file lawsuits

By Staff
March 20, 2004
By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
For most homeowners in Lauderdale County, too much rain is a minor inconvenience. It means the basement smells musty or a shrub that doesn't like "wet feet" falls victim to fungus.
But, a group of neighbors at Eagle Pointe Villas says rain makes them afraid. Afraid their property will be flooded again. Afraid their houses will become unlivable. Afraid of becoming homeless.
The owners of nine homes damaged in April 2003 floods filed separate lawsuits Friday in Lauderdale County Circuit Court against:
Eagle Pointe Development Inc.; its president, Jack Joyner; vice president, Kenneth Joyner; and vice president, James Covington. The corporation is named in the lawsuit because it developed the subdivision.
Engineering Plus of East Mississippi; its owner, Terrell Temple; and an employee, H. Dwane Walton named because Temple and his company oversee road and bridge projects for Lauderdale County.
Neal Carson, county engineer/road manager for Lauderdale County named because he is purportedly the person who reviews subdivision plans and maps submitted by private engineers to make sure they comply with the county's regulations.
The lawsuits, which represent only one side in a legal dispute, do not demand specific amounts of money. Rather, each asks for a trial in which a jury considers compensatory and punitive damages.
The background
The lawsuits come almost a year after large areas of Lauderdale County flooded, a result of heavy rains on April 7, 2003, and April 25, 2003.
Among the areas that suffered the most was Eagle Pointe Villas, an upscale subdivision south of Briarwood Country Club golf course in the upper reaches of the Sowashee Drainage District.
All but one of the nine homeowners who filed suit Friday say their property had no flood insurance because they were told their houses were not in a flood plain.
They say the subdivision's infrastructure is inadequate in a number of ways. First, they assert that the negligent design and construction of Grand Cypress Bridge is one reason for the flooding. Second, they say Grand Cypress Drive should have been built at a higher elevation.
Third, the Eagle Pointe neighbors say the flooding problem is due to the defendants' failure to do a 100-year flood analysis in the manner set out in Lauderdale County's regulations.
Lastly, they assert that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to cut corners for their own profit at the expense of Eagle Pointe homeowners. The result, they say, is a drastic drop in property values.
House by house
The Eagle Pointe residents who filed lawsuits Friday are: Michael and Terry McKelvaine; Grady and Eleanor Hinson; David and Carissa Schienblum; Robert and Sandra Quinlisk; Ronald and Lisa Grantham; Gregory Sims; Mary Rebecca Adkins; William and Sherri Johannsen; and Kathy Vick.
Each of the nine lawsuits alleges specific damages claimed by Eagle Point homeowners. They include damage to walls, roofs, floor coverings, cabinets, moldings, baseboards, swimming pools, landscaping, fences, furniture and clothing.
In each case, homeowners say they have spent many hours restoring their property and thousands of dollars on cleaning and repairs. Another common thread is the loss of personal items with sentimental value.
McKelvaine home: Lot 4, purchase price $152,000.
Sims home: Lot 30, purchase price $210,000. In this case, floodwater from an adjacent creek also destroyed a computer, its programs and accessories.
Grantham home: Lot 1, purchase price $225,000.
Quinlisk home: Lot 6, purchase price $174,000. In this case, floodwater from an adjacent creek also destroyed personal documents and records.
Schienblum home: Lot 32, purchase price $181,000.
Hinson home: Lot 2, purchase price $135,000. In this case, floodwater from an adjacent creek also destroyed a refrigerator and freezer, a Clark drum sander, a Clark edger and a Clark buffer and floodwater pooled under the house.
Johannsen home: Lot 5, purchase price $145,000. In this case, a 1995 Toyota Camry was also declared a total loss.
Adkins home: Lot 31, purchase price $235,000. In this case, a 1997 Acura was also destroyed. Adkins did have flood insurance, but there was a 30-day waiting period before it became effective and the property flooded five days after she moved in.
Vick home: Lot 38, purchase price $249,000. In the most extreme damage cited by Eagle Pointe homeowners, the slab foundation of this house cracked and separated and the home was found to be uninhabitable.
What's next?
Both sides will ask for records, documents and information through their attorneys. Plaintiffs and defendants may be interviewed by opposing counsel and their answers recorded. This process, called "discovery," is usually measured in years, not months.