Five additional lawsuits have now been filed in connection with the sinkholes that formed in the City of Georgetown in late 2011 damaging several buildings and homes.
The suits were filed Jan. 28 by four business owners and a private homeowner.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuits are Georgetown Auto Parts and Landy’s Cleaners which was located at 119 and 125 North Fraser Street; Biz Vestors, LLC of 213 Dozier Street; Deep Enterprise, LLC of 238 North Fraser Street; Sam’s Furniture Warehouse at 219 Dozier Street; and Bret Phillips, a homeowner at 1201 Prince Street.
Named as defendants in the lawsuits are Davis & Floyd Engineering, Republic Contracting, S&ME Inc., the South Carolina Department of Transportation, and the City of Georgetown.
A previous lawsuit was filed by Tony and Debbie Jordan who owned Parrish Place on North Fraser Street which housed several businesses including the UPS Store, which Debbie Jordan owned and managed.
That building was destroyed when a sinkhole formed underneath the structure in November 2011.
The Jordans named the same defendants in their suit except the City of Georgetown.
In the new filings, the plaintiffs say their property was damaged beginning in late October 2011 by the dewatering activities associated with the drainage project that the SCDOT is still working on in the general area the sinkholes formed.
At one point water was being removed from the ground at a rate of 60,000 gallons per hour.
The dewatering “altered the water tables and caused land subsidence,” the suit states. “(The) defendants knew or should have known the inherent risks of damage to structures above ground by an uncontrolled dewatering process.”
Steps were supposed to be taken to isolate where the dewatering occurred, the suit alleges.
“The purpose of establishing the intended isolation area was to contain the area to prevent pumps from drawing water from outside the isolated area,” the suits state. “Drawing water from outside the intended isolation area can cause … damage to the surrounding structures.”
The plaintiffs say the defendants “failed to conduct any hydrogeological testing or studies before November, 2011.”
The reason the dewatering took place where it was not supposed to was because sheeting and king pilings placed in the ground were inadequate, the plaintiffs say.
They say the defendants received notice in October 2011 the dewatering was occurring outside the intended area.
“Contractors were aware of potential problems with the structural integrity of the king piles and sheeting in the areas being excavated,” the suits state.
On October 29, 2011, those in charge of the drainage project were told depressions had started to form outside the intended isolation area, the suits allege, but the dewatering continued for about a month thereafter.
The plaintiffs call this “grossly negligent and/or intentional, willful and wanton conduct.”
Fifteen causes of action are listed including trespass because water was pumped from underneath the property without permission.
They are seeking a jury trial and are asking the court to determine the amount of damages they should be awarded.
Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville said the city should not be named as a defendant in the case.
“We are sorry they saw fit to name the City but are not surprised. Our review of the facts indicate the City is not responsible for what happened. The matter will be handled by the City's attorneys and insurance company,” Scoville said. “Hopefully, a resolution acceptable to all concerned may be reached quickly.”
By Scott Harper
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