SAN JOSE, Calif. - Nearly one year after the massive Coyote Creek flood in San Jose, more than 150 families filed a joint lawsuit Thursday against multiple local and county agencies, alleging negligence and emotional distress, among other complaints.
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"We didn't matter to the city," says Sinia Ellis, San Jose resident. "I'm a tax-paying citizen, and I really feel like demographically, we were just swept aside, like the flood."
Thursday morning, lawyers representing the families held a press conference in the Rock Springs neighborhood to discuss the details of their lawsuit against the City of San Jose, Santa Clara County, and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
The suit alleges the agencies didn't do enough to warn residents of the impending disaster on Feb. 21 of last year.
"This floodwater was toxic," says Amanda Hawes, co-attorney for the plaintiffs. "Nobody should've been exposed to it."
Hawes believes the flooding was preventable and accuses authorities of not properly maintaining Anderson Dam, which over-spilled, causing Coyote Creek to flood. However, the city attorney's office says it does not believe San Jose has any legal liability, and has denied all flood-related claims under operation of law.
In a statement, San Jose city attorney Rick Doyle said: "The City has worked and continues to work with many nonprofit organizations to provide resources and support to those individuals and families who need it."
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"They're not taking responsibility for something they caused to happen," says San Jose resident Jolene Noel. "Their negligence caused this problem."
County officials said it was 'unfortunate' that they were being included in the litigation because they don't have direct responsibility for evacuations within city limits.
As for the water district, board members say they've taken positive actions to reduce the risks of future floods by lowering the water level at Anderson Reservoir last fall, and removing downed trees and invasive vegetation in the creek.
"It's been a long year," said Ellis. "It's been a long, very hard year."
Attorneys for the victims have not specified the exact amount of damages they are pursuing as part of a lawsuit, but say it's in the 'millions.'
Officials estimated the flood caused nearly $73 million in damages and impacted more than 14,000 residents.