Lawsuit filed against MSD in woman's drowning

6:05 PM, Dec 15, 2008   |    comments
Louise Bryant.
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KSDK -- A lawsuit has been filed against the Metropolitan Sewer District in connection to the September 14th drowning of a University City woman.

64-year-old Louise Bryant was washed away by receding floodwaters outside her Wilson Avenue home.  Her friend, Willie Johnson was also swept away and drowned.  The two had just moved her car to higher ground, and were trying to cross the driveway of her home. 

Bryant's daughter filed the suit.  It alleges that MSD is to blame for the floodwaters rising out of the River des Peres. "MSD owes it to the public to ensure the River des Peres is safe," said her Attorney, John Campbell of Simon Passanante. "Their failure to do so cost Louise Bryant her life. Many people believe that the government is immune, but that isn't always true."

Filed November 25 in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Holland v. Metropolitan Sewer District alleges that the River des Peres is dangerous flood-prone open storm sewer with deadly low banks. The suit alleges that MSD failed to use sandbags, levees or other flood protection systems to prevent neighborhood street flooding.

The suit also alleges that though the MSD had a duty to provide a safe and non-deadly stormwater system, the agency negligently failed to properly clean the River des Peres, negligently failed to remove obstructive materials, negligently failed to build or provide adequate flood-protection barriers and negligently failed to build or provide for adequate stormwater storage areas upstream from the Wilson Avenue neighborhood. Attorneys who filed the claim assert that in the last two decades, stormwater repeatedly overflowed the River Des Peres drain behind Ms. Bryant's home, giving MSD notice of the dangerous condition.

The suit also contains trespass and nuisance claims, alleging that MSD's conduct was intentional, willful and made with a conscious disregard for Bryant's safety. The intrusion of the stormwater onto Bryant's property constituted trespass and also amounted to unreasonable interference with Bryant's use of her property.

In addition to the wrongful death lawsuit, Simon-Passanante and Detroit-based Macuga, Liddle & Dubin PC represent over 60 individuals who have suffered injury, property damage and emotional stress as a result of the Sept. 14 flooding.  Meetings to provide additional information about potential claims for those who suffered from the flooding are planned for December 18, 2008 from 4-8pm at Gas Workers, located at 7750 Olive in University City.

MSD's Lance Lecomb said MSD is still reviewing specifics of the lawsuit. He said MSD understands the family's grief and the community's pain. He said it is important for the public to understand that the september flooding was a result of too much rain falling from the sky within a short period of time and no steps could've prevented it.

Lecomb said the flooding occurred in areas designated as floodplains and that MSD believes there should be a community-wide dialogue on floodplain management.


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