Disaster Declared Due to Flooding in Denton, Other Texas Counties
- May 19, 2015
- Personal Injury
Severe weather has swept through Texas recently, bringing heavy rainfall, storms, flooding, and tornados. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster in several Texas counties, including Bosque, Clay, Denton, Gaines, Van Zandt, and Montague counties. With this declaration, these counties can use state resources to help repair some areas that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
The small town of Van in East Texas was hit by a tornado on Sunday night. At least two people were killed because of that tornado. Another tornado hit Cisco, which is just west of Fort Worth, on Saturday. That tornado has caused the death of at least one person. Declaring these counties a disaster will allow the Texas State Operations Center to deploy state resources much more quickly.
Storms and Legal Liability – Act of God
Natural acts create interesting legal questions, particularly when there is property damage. As a rule, most homeowners’ insurance policies have a clause about natural disasters. They will either cover them or they will specifically state that they are not covered. When it comes to harming other people’s property, however, the treatment is very different.
Natural disasters are used as a defense to liability in Texas and several other states. It is sometimes referred to as an “Act of God.” Generally, people assume that an Act of God occurs any time a natural disaster strikes and causes damage. But, this is not always the case. An Act of God can have no other causes. That is, the Act of God alone must have caused the car accident; there can be no other contributing factors.
Limiting the Act of God Defense
For example, if a strong wind blows a tree branch in your neighbor’s yard over to your yard and it breaks your window, then your neighbor may argue that the damage was caused by an Act of God. However, if the tree branch was dead and your neighbor was careless (or negligent) in failing to maintain the tree, then the Act of God defense would not apply. This is because it was both your neighbor’s negligence and the strong wind that caused the tree branch to move.
In Texas, this limitation is very strong. In one case, there was a train that was derailed because a tornado was passing through the area. One might think that this damage was based entirely on an Act of God, but the court ruled otherwise. The court found that the train company failed to maintain its facilities properly, and that the train driver was negligent because he drove the train into harm’s way. This case severely constrains this defense.
If you or your property has been harmed or damaged by the property of others, do not assume that because there was a natural disaster, there is no legal liability. If the natural disaster was foreseeable at all, then there may be a valid premise liability or personal injury case. Speak to an experienced Texas attorney to discuss your legal option.