GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) – A Kent County judge today dismissed a lawsuit filed by Plaza Towers against the city for damages incurred when a water holding tank failed, flooding an underground parking lot.
Today's ruling by Kent County Circuit Court Judge George Buth means the city is off the hook for more than $7 million in damages to the high rise during record flooding in April, 2013.
Grand Rapids filed a motion asking the case be dismissed, citing a contract with the builder that frees the city from liability.
Plaza Towers Condominium Association says the damage was caused by a failed municipal water system and holding tank that cause millions of gallons of river water to be shot under the building and into the parking structure.
It was among the more noteworthy casualties from epic rains that caused widespread flooding across Michigan. The Grand River downtown crested at 21.8 feet on April 21, 2013, nearly four feet above flood stage.
A day earlier, Plaza Towers was evacuated when a pressure relief valve failed, allowing millions of gallons of river water to be "shot'' underneath the concrete structure, Plaza Towers attorney Stephen Afendoulis said.
"We are not bringing this case because it rained; we are bringing this case because the city had a flawed system,'' Afendoulis argued.
Retired Kent County Circuit Judge Dennis Kolenda, now in private practice, said a contract inked between the city and United Development, which built the 32-story high-rise, precludes litigation.
The 1989 contract specifically protects the city from claims linked to a sewer main running beneath the property at 201 W. Fulton Street, Kolenda said.
"A deal is a deal and they have to live with it,'' Kolenda argued during today's two-hour hearing. "And this deal says this case cannot be filed; no way, no how.''
Buth agreed, citing a one-paragraph clause in the original contract that protects the city from litigation, even if the original signers are no longer connected with Plaza Towers.
Kolenda said today's ruling is a victory for taxpayers.
"To get the case dismissed early is a victory for taxpayers because the city shepherds its money carefully, which means it's only got so much. And everything it spends on attorneys it can't spend on something else.''
Plaza Towers owners filed the lawsuit earlier this summer, claiming a pedestrian walkway cut into the floodwall contributed to flooding in the riverside parking garage. The building was closed for two weeks, displacing nearly 1,000 residents.
Ground was broken on the high rise in Sept. 1988. When it opened in 1991, the structure – called Eastbank Towers, was the tallest building in Grand Rapids.