The owner of Rhoten’s Country Store and Wash World Laundry is suing the Old Mill, it’s owners, the Town of Lexington and the Barr Lake Homeowners Association for damages incurred in the October 2015 rainstorm.
In his suit filed on 2 October, Mr. Wesley Rhoten claims Old Mill, LLC, Old Mill Partnership, Ryan Condon, Laban Chappell, Barr Lake Homeowners Association, Inc., and the Town of Lexington were negligent for not properly maintaining dams for which they are responsible. Mr. Rhoten contends that negligence led to dam breakages at Old Mill Pond, Gibson Park Pond and Barr Lake, resulting in flooding of his two businesses and a storage building across Hwy 1 from the Old Mill property. (In South Carolina, a suit for damage to real or personal property, must be brought within three years, according to South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-530.)
The suit specifically contends the defendants were negligent and reckless in one or more of the following:
- failing to properly maintain water levels;
- failing to properly check water levels
- failing to properly lower water levels in the face of impending rain
- failing to warn
- failing to properly maintain the pond;
- failing to properly manage the pond
- in failing to properly anticipate water levels
- failing to comply with applicable regulations;
- failing to comply with generally accepted lake management standards
- failing to properly open floodgate which would have been opened if
proper management practices had been followed; and
- in failing to properly train and supervise dam operations personnel.
Mr Rhoten is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. Unable to reach Mr. Rhoten, Lake and Main spoke with his attorney, Mr. Jake Moore of West Columbia, who “guessed” that real damages were as high as $750,000.
All parties are being sued for “negligence.” In South Carolina, “negligence” is&
- A duty of care was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached that duty
- There’s a causal connection between the defendant’s conduct and the harm to the plaintiff
- The harm was a proximate cause of defendant’s actions, meaning the harm was foreseeable
- The plaintiff had damages resulting from the defendant’s
In some cases, someone may be held “strictly liable,” which means a claim can be made regardless of whether malice or even “intent” were involved. With “strict liability,” it’s necessary only to show harm and that the defendant was responsible, even if the defendant acted in good faith or took all possible precautions. The Town of Lexington is the only party not being sued form”strict liability.”
Financial judgements in South Carolina are determined by a judge or jury and are subject to monetary caps. Punitive damages are capped at $500,000 or three times actual damages, whichever is greater [Section 15-32-530
Claims against government, in this case the Town of Lexington, are maxed at $300,000 [Section 15-78-120]. This may be the reason why the Town is only cited for negligence.