Rock Hill woman sues city, state over stormwater damage

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 25, 2014 

— A Rock Hill woman has sued the city and the state Department of Transportation, claiming a deteriorating terra cotta stormwater pipe under her College Avenue home has caused nearly $150,000 in damage.

Lucille Ray filed the lawsuit, set to go to trial later this year, in November 2012.

Ray’s lawsuit alleges that the city and the DOT are channeling stormwater into the pipe, undermining the structural integrity of the house near Glencairn Garden she has lived in since 1985.

Efforts to reach Ray, her attorney Charles Bradford, and DOT attorney John Devlin were unsuccessful last week. City attorney Mark White declined to comment.

In documents filed with the York County clerk of court, the city and DOT deny most of the allegations in the lawsuit. The city tried to settle with Ray over her claims that water from city-maintained streets or from its stormwater system is being channeled through the pipe under her home.

Neither side would provide copies of settlement negotiation documents to The Herald. The DOT tried unsuccessfully in November to obtain by court order details of the settlement proposed. York County Master-in-Equity Jack Kimball denied DOT’s request.

The case is expected to go to trial by October.

In its February 2013 response to Ray’s lawsuit, Rock Hill contends that it does not own the 24-inch stormwater pipe under Ray’s home and that other parties are responsible for the issue. The city did not specify who was responsible.

Any damages to Ray’s home, the city claims, “were caused by the acts or omissions of others” outside Rock Hill’s control. The city has asked for a jury trial.

The structural problems at Ray’s home became noticeable in 2008, when she discovered that her front steps were sinking, according to the lawsuit. Ray alleges that there is a stormwater pipe that extends from College Avenue in front of her house to the rear of her home.

She initially contacted the city of Rock Hill’s utility department, according to the suit, and an employee did a “pipeline study” but did not provide Ray with the results. After “numerous efforts” to see video that was recorded of the underground pipe, another employee informed Ray that the recording “had been lost,” the lawsuit states.

Later, Ray alleges, the employee who did the study told her that her home’s steps “were simply setting.”

Ray contends that her front steps continued to deteriorate and that a second pipeline study was performed in June 2011, by the same city employee. This time, she reviewed the recording with a city official, she claims in her suit.

The employee told Ray that “he would get back to her” regarding the pipe underneath her home, according to the lawsuit.

After trying several times to get in touch with the Rock Hill employee, Ray was told that he no longer worked for the city. She was not contacted again about the pipe until she hired an attorney and she received a response from Rock Hill’s attorney.

The lawsuit contends that Ray and her home will “suffer irreparable injury” if the city and DOT aren’t ordered to address the issue. That should include re-routing stormwater currently channeled through the pipe under Ray’s home and filling the pipe with a “flowable” soil-cement mixture. The lawsuit also seeks to require the defendants to “provide structural shoring” of the home’s foundation in the “pipe trench zone.”

Ray is suing for actual damages, attorney fees and costs associated with appraisal and engineering services.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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