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$1 Billion Worth Of Claims For Oroville Dam Damages Filed With The State Of California

Kelly M. Grow / California Department of Water Resources

The California Department of Water Resources has suspended flows from the Oroville Dam spillway after a concrete section eroded on the middle section of the spillway. There is no anticipated threat to the dam or the public.

Kelly M. Grow / California Department of Water Resources

One week before the deadline to formally seek payment from the state of California for damages stemming from the Oroville Dam’s spillway failure this year, the state has received 93 claims worth a combined $1.1 billion.

That includes a $1 billion claim from a Yolo County farmer named Kent Lang. His lawyer, James Nolan, says that claim is paving the way for a class action lawsuit on behalf of anyone harmed by the dam emergency.

Aside from the class action claim, the 92 Oroville-related individual claims total nearly $172 million.

Nolan says he filed the class action claim for “$1 billion or more.” Asked why he picked that dollar figure, he responded that “it’s sort of a wild estimate of what potentially could be out there.” Nolan says property owners on both sides of the Sacramento and Feather rivers affected by the dam emergency could potentially join his suit if a judge grants it class action status.

Lang has also filed two individual claims: $14 million from “KA Lang Family Limited Partnership” and $7.9 million from “Lang Family #1 Limited Partnership.” Nolan says Lang volunteered to be the plaintiff in the class action suit.

Lang owns walnut orchards along the Sacramento River in Yolo County and is a past president of the Yolo County Farm Bureau. Nolan says Lang lost a substantial amount of his orchards from the high water flows as a result of the dam emergency.

Other large Oroville-related claims include $57 million from the Yolo Land Trust and $48 million from Garcia Farms.

Some claims are for $0, and others are as small as $100.

The list of claims was provided to Capital Public Radio Friday afternoon by the California Department of General Services, which runs the Government Claims Program. Filing such a claim for damages with the state is a mandatory first step before the state can be sued. (Here’s our explainer of how to seek payment for damages from the state of California.)

Here is the list of the 93 claims filed with the state as of Thursday, August 3rd, as well as whether the state has taken any action on them. The deadline to file most claims for damages related to the Oroville Dam crisis is next Friday, August 11th.

As we explained in this story, claims filed against the state are reviewed for four criteria:

  • Timeliness: Claimants have up to six months to file claims for death or injury, damage to personal property, or damage to growing crops. The deadline to file all other claims is one year. Claims submitted after the deadline are rejected.

  • Sufficiency: Claimants must sufficiently answer all questions in the claim form, such as providing the basis for how much money is being sought from the state and why the claimant believes the state is at fault. Claims that fall short of this standard are rejected, but GCP will offer guidance on how the claims could be submitted successfully.

  • Complexity: Some claims, particularly more expensive ones, are too complex to be evaluated through the GCP administrative process and are more appropriately resolved in the judicial system. Those claims are rejected, paving the way for claimants to take their disputes to court.

  • Merit: Claims that meet the top three criteria are then referred to the responsible state agency or department for response. Then, the GCP will determine whether the claim has merit.

The state may choose to approve the claim in full or in part, or reject it entirely. If your claim is rejected, your next option is to file a lawsuit against the state.

Claimants who agree to the payment must sign a release form waiving their right to sue.


 

Definitions of Status:

Incomplete: The claim is missing one or more of the pieces of information required by the government code. (GC sec 910)

Awaiting Review / Default: The claim has not yet received an initial review from an analyst.  

Awaiting Recommendation: We completed our initial review and began reviewing the claim for merit.  We asked DWR to provide input.

Reject – Complex Issues: The allegations of the claim go beyond the scope of GCP’s review and the claim is being rejected to preserve the claimant’s right to sue the State.

No Fee / No Waiver: The claimant has neither paid the filing fee nor provided an application for a fee waiver

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