Five business owners and a homeowner have now filed lawsuits against the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and the city of Georgetown over sinkholes that destroyed an office building and damaged several other structures.
Six lawsuits have now been filed in connection with sinkholes that formed in late 2011. That occurred at the same time the city was involved in a drainage project with the state Department of Transportation. The project— which tries to ease flooding at one of the city’s main intersections— is currently scheduled to be complete by March 31. That is roughly a year longer than the project was originally supposed to take.
Once complete, an upgraded system will use larger drains, pipes, and retention ponds to pump stormwater runoff into the nearby Sampit River. However, work stopped in November 2011 when sinkholes suddenly began forming on Fraser Street. One particular sinkhole destroyed several businesses when it caused the Parrish Place complex to collapse.
South Carolina’s Insurance Reserve Fund investigated the case to see if SCDOT was to blame for the collapse. At the time, contractors were draining a nearby retention pond to upgrade the system. There is speculation that crews may have accidentally punctured a layer of underground limestone, causing too much groundwater to flow out of the area. However, the Reserve Fund has not released its findings due to impending litigation.
The plaintiffs in one lawsuit filed last month are Tony and Debbie Jordan, who owned the Parrish Place center before it collapsed. The couple also owned another center in the same block that was deemed unsafe to occupy after the sinkhole formed. Tony Jordan runs an insurance agency in Georgetown.
The plaintiffs in the other lawsuits are Georgetown Auto Parts, Landy’s Cleaners, Biz Vestors, LLC; Deep Enterprise, LLC; Sam’s Furniture Warehouse; and homeowner Bret Phillips. Named as defendants in the lawsuits are Davis & Floyd Engineering, Republic Contracting, S&ME Inc., the South Carolina Department of Transportation, and the City of Georgetown (the Jordans did not sue the city).
In the new filings, the plaintiffs say their property was damaged beginning in late October 2011 by the dewatering activities associated with the drainage project. The suit claims the defendants failed to conduct any hydrogeological testing or studies before the sinkholes began forming. “(The) defendants knew or should have known the inherent risks of damage to structures above ground by an uncontrolled dewatering process,” the suit claims.
The lawsuit also claims that those in charge of the drainage project were told depressions had started to form outside the intended isolation area, but says the dewatering continued, anyway.
The Department of Transportation does not comment on ongoing legal issues. A call to Jordan’s office was not returned.