Eric Purchase of Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. was recently in the news. He represented a married couple whose residence in Millcreek Township was destroyed by a stormwater-related landslide. On September 9, 2013, Rick and Noreen Griffith lost their house overlooking Lake Erie when a landslide undermined the home’s foundation and made it uninhabitable. The Griffiths enlisted the legal help of attorney Eric J. Purchase as they sought financial compensation for the loss of their home. Now, after five years, the legal battle has ended with an Erie County judge ruling that Millcreek Township was liable for the catastrophe. As a result, Millcreek Township has been ordered to pay an amount that could total hundreds of thousands of dollars to compensate the Griffiths.
The case dealt with “inverse condemnation,” which refers to an eminent domain situation in which the government acquires property without paying just compensation to the property owners. In this case, the Erie County court ruled that Millcreek Township was responsible for the faulty stormwater system flowing into Lake Erie. Since the stormwater caused severe erosion and ultimately resulted in the landslide that destroyed the Griffith’s home, Millcreek Township was determined to have executed a de facto taking by virtue of the property destruction. The value of the property was found to have dropped from $414,200 all the way to zero dollars after the landslide. This is the amount that the township could be responsible for paying in damages.