As cleanup from last week’s flooding at Washington Harbour continues, a D.C. law firm is filing a $5 million class-action lawsuit against the property’s manager, MRP Realty, on behalf of those affected by the flood.
Gary Mason, an attorney for Mason LLP, and plaintiff Charles Holcomb filed the lawsuit April 20, two days after the flood. Until the flood, Holcomb was a bartender at Farmers and Fishers, a restaurant located in the lower level of the plaza. Holcomb contacted Mason when the restaurant was forced to close, causing him to lose wages.
Their complaint claims MRP Realty was negligent after it failed to raise floodgates that would have protected the properties.
“Defendant [MRP Realty] owed a duty of care to plaintiff to ensure the safe operation of Washington Harbour and to take all necessary measures, including raising the floodgates, to prevent the flooding that occurred on April 18,” the complaint reads. “As a direct and proximate result of defendant’s negligent conduct, defendant has caused plaintiff and members of the Class to suffer and continue to suffer financial and economic loss.”
The water level of the Potomac is usually gauged upstream at Harpers Ferry, W. Va., giving property managers in D.C. 32 to 36 hours to erect the flood gates before flooding becomes a problem. It takes approximately five hours to put the barriers in place and costs about $15,000 to raise them.
“[MRP Realty] have a duty to their tenets and employees to raise these gates and protect them from physical and economic harm,” Mason said. He added that the Washington Harbour property has known to be at risk of flooding since it was built in the 1980s, which is why flood gates were included in the original plan by the architect.
This is the first time the area has experienced such heavy flooding in the 25 years since it was built.
According to the complaint, affected restaurants are likely to lose $20,000 to $40,000 for each day they remain closed because of flooding damages.
Mason said his firm traditionally represents people who suffer economic loss or property damage due to ecological situations.
“As it turns out, we’ve mostly been contacted by people who are wage earners who are losing money,” he said.
Mason added that while the loss of one man’s wages might not warrant a complaint, filing the case as a class-action lawsuit makes it stronger.
“With 100 to 200 people who have lost wages … it becomes viable to pursue,” he said.
Spokeswoman for MRP Realty Julie Chase said that all the tenants have moved back into their residences, and electricity has been restored to the property. There is no official reopening date for the restaurants, but she said that several tenants hope to reopen by Mother’s Day.
Chase declined to comment on the lawsuit and why the flood gates were not up.
– Hoya Staff Writer Mariah Byrne contributed to this report