Tuesday 6 December 2016

ESB faces multi-million-euro bill for city's flood damage after ruling by the High Court

Mark O'Regan and Tim Healy

Published 06/10/2015 | 02:30

Flood waters surround the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in UCC, Cork
Flood waters surround the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in UCC, Cork

Hundreds of households could seek compensation from the ESB after it was found responsible for flood damage that engulfed Cork city almost six years ago.

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The ESB is facing a multi-million-euro bill after the High Court ruled it was 60pc liable for extensive damage to buildings in UCC during flooding in November 2009.

Mr Justice Max Barrett also ruled that UCC was 40pc liable for failing over years to act on mounting information of flood risk to its properties and continuing to construct properties on the River Lee flood plain.

Its failure to engage with the flood risk exposed UCC, its staff and students to "significant hazard", the judge said.

The exact figure both ESB and UCC will have to fork out will be decided by the High Court at another stage.

The costs of the case alone are estimated at several million euro.

UCC had brought its claim on behalf of its insurer, Aviva, which is seeking €20m damages for losses at UCC and an additional €14m for other losses suffered by other property owners.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Cork solicitor Joe Noonan, who represents 40 affected property owners, said others seeking compensation should launch legal proceedings "before it's too late".

He estimated "hundreds of properties" were affected by flood damage.

"People should definitely take legal advice on their options as soon as possible.

"I imagine people will do that because it was a very sad occasion in Cork.

"We're inundated; it's a question of to what extent were they covered by insurance.

"That is something people will have to look at in the next few days. There is a six-year deadline looming, after which they will fall foul of the statutes of limitations.

"It's very important that anyone who did suffer damage, and who hasn't taken legal advice already, should do so."

Mr Noonan welcomed the High Court ruling and called on the ESB to "do the decent thing" by accepting the decision and not appealing.

"People have suffered a long time and deserve to have a resolution and closure," he added.

He said the majority of property owners he represents are households.

"The damage to each property is different and to varying degrees. But overall the figure runs into millions, and the suffering involved can't be measured," he said.

Costs

"Costs have been visited on the affected households, and the question is whether the ESB will accept the findings of the High Court, that it was their doing which led to these losses."

UCC had claimed that on November 19, 2009, following heavy rainfall, the ESB rapidly increased the amount of water released from both dams at an unprecedented rate of discharge and failed to act preemptively by releasing amounts of water from the dam at a rate to avoid or mimimise the risk of flooding.

Irish Independent

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