Class Action Against International Paper Approved

A federal judge has approved a class action notice in a lawsuit against International Paper over  flooding in several neighborhoods.

The class action suit against IP claims that flooding during record rainfall in April 2014 was caused by failure of the “Kingsfield Road Dam”, located on IP’s mill property in Cantonment. The plantiffs claim IP was negligent by not properly maintaining or removing the dam.

Chief Judge M. Casey Rodgers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida has granted class action status to a lawsuit brought on behalf of owners of real property as of April 29, 2014, in the Bristol Park, Bristol Woods, Bristol Creek, or Ashbury Hills subdivisions in Cantonment.

“We are pleased that the Federal Court has Certified this Class Action against International Paper, on behalf of the residents of Bristol Park and Asbury Hills subdivisions.  We look forward to fighting for our clients at the trial which is set to begin February 20, 2018,” said J.J. Talbott, one of the plantiff attorneys in the case.

The lawsuit claims that between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m., a large “swell” or “wave” of water breached and overflowed into Eleven Mile Creek, including the Bristol Park and Ashbury Hills subdivisions, Devine Farms Road and other surrounding areas, as a result of International Paper’s dam or levee.  Both residential  areas are located in “Flood Zone X” on flood insurance maps, meaning they are not in special flood hazard areas and require no mandatory flood insurance.

The failure, the lawsuit asserts, was the result of IP’s negligence in maintaining the Eleven Mile Creek Dam and levee, failure to counteract continued development, failed to control debris buildup in and around the dam, and of a failure to notify those downstream of the potential or ultimate failure of the levee system.

The lawsuit seeks damages for loss and damage to personal and real property, diminished property values, loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, loss of income and additional expenses due to the flooding in the neighborhoods.

International Paper has denied responsibility for the flooding, contending that he flooding was caused by the rainfall during the April 29-30 storm.

In a May 2014 statement, International Paper told

“On April 29, 2014, the Pensacola Mill experienced the storm/flood event that the rest of the county experienced. There was significant erosion and wash-out of an inactive erosion control structure near Kingsfield Road. The structure was previously used to control erosion at this now abandoned outfall point, but it has been out of service since the mill completed transition to the pipeline in October of 2012.

“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have been directly affected by the area floods. Many of our team members were impacted by this event. On April 29, record storm water flows from across the entire 48-square mile watershed of Eleven mile creek rapidly exceeded the capacity of the creek. During and after the storm, the Pensacola mill continued to discharge to our pipeline, which bypasses the Eleven mile creek watershed. No part of the mill’s waste treatment facility failed or collapsed during or after the storm event. We have fully communicated with both state and local agencies regarding the impacts of the storm on the Pensacola mill.”

Aerial View of Failed International Paper dam in Pensacola  Alternate aerial angle of failed Paper Mill dam in Pensacola Damage from dam failure in Pensacola, FL

Aerial photos show the failure of a dam and levee owned by International Paper that allowed flood waters to rush down Eleven Mile Creek.

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