Environmental Litigation Attorneys

Michigan Dam Failure Lawyers

Predictably heavy rains in the spring of 2020 turned into a disastrous flood when the privately-owned Edenville and Sanford Lake dams suffered catastrophic failure, leaving parts of central Michigan, including large swathes of Midland, Gladwin, and Saginaw Counties, suddenly underwater and formerly lakefront (and flood-damaged) homes in front of broad mud flats.

The economic losses were equally sweeping. Countless homes and businesses sustained severe damage. Much of this damage may not be adequately covered by insurance. There are indirect losses as well. For example, Wixom Lake, a picturesque, century-old lake, became a muddy pit. Hundreds of lakeside homes lost much of their value, and that’s just the beginning.

At Napoli Shkolnik, our dedicated Michigan dam failure lawyers work hard to ascertain your losses and obtain the compensation you need and deserve. Because of our tenacious approach, we often are able to settle such claims out of court.

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About Boyce Power LLC

For a number of years, entities related to this Michigan-based engineering company designed, built, and maintained a number of key dams in the state, including the aforementioned Sanford Lake and Edenville dams. This spring, before the catastrophic dam failures, the state filed suit against these entities for allegedly opening the Edenville gates illegally, lowering Wixom Lake’s water level by almost ten feet.

This incident was not the first time the company fell under scrutiny. In 2018, the state cited Boyce Power for potential overflow remediation which would have avoided an incident like the Michigan dam failure. As a result, Boyce Power lost one of its operating licenses.

The issues presented in this case are similar to the ones in the Flint, Michigan water crisis. There, engineering firms betrayed the public trust and exposed thousands of residents to dangerously high lead levels; here, engineers betrayed the public trust and exposed thousands of residents to disastrous flooding and possible chemical contamination, including of ground- and drinking-water from private wells.

Napoli Shkolnik attorneys successfully intervened on behalf of the Flint victims and we will fight just as hard for central Michiganders in affected areas. We have the tools to bring about the same results to Michigan dam failure victims.

Liability Theories

Water storage is an ultrahazardous activity. The risks include not only floods, but also hydroelectric disasters. Because of this designation, Michigan law holds companies like Boyce Power to a higher standard. And, as the old saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

The Napoli Shkolnik team uses a variety of legal theories to obtain compensation for victims. The best option varies, depending on the facts of your specific claim. That’s one reason to partner with an independent lawyer rather than join a class action suit. More on that below.


Essentially, negligence is a lack of care. Since water storage is a hazardous activity, the duty of care is high in Michigan. At a minimum, to comply with its legal responsibilities, each dam owner must have:

  • Dam safety permit,
  • Operational plan,
  • Successful inspection record,
  • Maintenance and emergency action plans,
  • Early warning system, and
  • Limited access.

The bottom line is that dams regulated by the federal or state government must be designed to withstand flood, earthquake, or other natural disaster.

If the company breached its duty, perhaps by failing to properly maintain the Edenville and Sanford Lake dams, the victims could be liable for substantial damages.

Arguably, Boyce Power intentionally disregarded a known risk. Because it put profits above people, additional punitive damages may be available as well.

There may also be additional culpable parties; Napol Shkolnik’s investigation is ongoing.

Strict Liability

Manufacturers are strictly liable for injuries their dangerous products cause. It does not matter if the product is the tiniest microchip or the Hoover Dam. There are basically two types of product defects:

  • Design Defect: The Sanford Lake and Edenville dams are both earthen dams. Our Michigan dam failure lawyers can partner with civil engineers and other experts to show that the construction design was inadequate for the task at hand.
  • Manufacturing Defect: In this context, inadequate maintenance could be a manufacturing defect. In other words, the dams might have been solid at first, but over time, they became dangerously inadequate.

Frequently, to establish cause, Napoli Shkolnik attorneys simply let victims tell their own stories in their own words. There is a power in such testimony that is difficult to describe.

Your Legal Options

Several class-action Michigan dam failure lawsuits have already been filed. Joining such an action might be a good idea, but there are significant pros and cons.

Napoli Shkolnik attorneys can also pursue individual actions. These efforts are tailor-made to your circumstances. And, we do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. Generally, because we have such vast resources, we advance all costs as well – if we do not make a recovery on your behalf, you will owe us nothing for our services.

Damages in a negligence, strict liability, or other lawsuit usually include compensation for economic losses, such as property damage, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are also available, if there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally disregarded a known risk.

When man’s neglect exacerbates a natural disaster, you need a strong legal advocate on your side. For a free consultation with an experienced Michigan dam failure lawyer, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act – the relevant Statute of Limitations that time-bars claims may be as short as six months from the date of incident.  Act today to protect your rights or they may be lost forever!

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