In this interlocutory appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to interpret the Storm Water Management Act (the “Act”). Precisely, the court was asked to determine whether a county watershed storm water plan must be in place for a defendant to be liable for violations of Sections 13 and 15 of the Act. In finding that such a plan was a prerequisite to liability, the court affirmed the trial court’s determination and limited liability to flooding instances after such a plan was in place.
Lincoln owns and operates a shopping center located on a 23-acre parcel in East Whiteland Township that it has owned since 1987. The shopping center experienced sporadic flooding from 1999 through 2011, with the flooding incidents increasing in frequency and intensity over time. An engineer hired by Lincoln to determine the source of the flooding problem, identified the cause as inadequate underground storm water management systems on surrounding properties. Lincoln filed suit against the surrounding property owners as well as state and local government entities (“Defendants”) under Section 13 of the Storm Water Management Act (the “Act”), and seeking damages under Section 15. The Court of Common Pleas of Chester County granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Lincoln’s claims related to flooding that occurred prior to 2011, which was when Chester County adopted a watershed storm water plan. The trial court reasoned that unless and until the county adopted a watershed storm water plan, the Defendants could not have violated Section 13. The trial court’s order was certified for interlocutory review, and Lincoln appealed.
On appeal the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s order. It found that a violation of Section 13 required a showing that the landowner’s conduct violated the terms of a county-adopted watershed storm water plan. Thus it followed that a county-adopted watershed storm water plan was a prerequisite for liability under both Sections 13 and 15 of the Act.
Click here to read: Lincoln Investors, L.P. v. King, 2646 CD 2015 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Dec. 22, 2016).