Federal judge tosses out big companies' flood suit

A.O. Smith, Gaylord and others had accused Army Corps of negligence

District Court Judge Todd Campbell on Thursday ruled that the former Gaylord Entertainment and A.O. Smith and other companies cannot move forward with damage claims against the federal government related to the May 2010 flood.

The companies, which had been joined by Gibson Guitar and Nissan North America as well as others, had accused the Army Corps of Engineers of negligence in its handling of the heavy rains that caused millions of dollars in property damage along the Cumberland River almost three years ago. The companies filed suit in April of last year.

Attorneys for the government had argued that the Army Corps was immune from prosecution based on previous rulings. The plaintiffs had argued that the Corps could not do that because Old Hickory Dam was not built to be a flood control tool. But in his opinion dismissing the lawsuit, Campbell wrote that other courts in recent years have clarified that government entities are immune from floodwater damages “even in the context of a project that is not primarily or substantially related to flood control.”

Responding to the plaintiffs’ claim that the Corps did not properly prepare for the “forecasted historic storm event,” Campbell wrote that “nothing about that characterization (as opposed to calling it a “flood”) changes the fact that the character of the water at issue herein was “flood waters” and the alleged actions and inactions were flood control efforts.”

Campbell also said plaintiffs' claims against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act were barred because Corps engineers have discretion on to how implement the broader goals of the agency.

To view Campbell’s opinion, click here. We will update this story as more information becomes available.