Damn you, Wal-Mart!
October 31, 2005 10:54 AM   Subscribe

FloodOutTheLittleGuyFilter: This is on the behalf of a friend of mine. His parents own a small business in a small town in New York. A few weeks back there were heavy rainstorms and flooding in the area. The town decided to direct the floodwaters away from from the new Wal-Mart--and it ended up in the shopping center where the business is located. Now they're under over three feet of water, everything's ruined, and they didn't have flood insurance. Half of the stores in the center have dropped out of the lawsuit they were preparing against the town. What now?

People dropped out to not make waves. The town's small enough (think size and pettiness) that the storeowners were afraid if they went ahead with the lawsuit there'd be repercussions. My friends' family doesn't have the financial power to carry on a long lawsuit or deal with having enemies. The town, of course, is not admitting to anything.

Are there any aid programs that could help them out? Not necessarily just legal aid, 'cause as said before without an army of storeowners backing them they're not keen on that route. Maybe any assistance programs, tax breaks, anything that can help minimize the monetary damage to my friends' family? This was their livelihood and they weren't in fantastic shape as it was.

Thanks very much for your help!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (7 answers total)
Worse repercussions than, say, the city intentionally redirecting floodwaters into their neighborhood, thus destroying their businesses?
posted by Laen at 2:13 PM on October 31, 2005

Google around for "private public interest law firm"...these are private firms that take on potentially lucrative cases on a contingency basis. The scenario you described sounds like it's right out of a law school casebook...
posted by Brian James at 2:15 PM on October 31, 2005

According to this page, flooding in April 2005 in New York state was declared a federal disaster, but not (at least as of today) the flooding you describe. (Federal assistance is described here.)

Looking at this page, it appears that New York State also did not declare there to be a disaster (the last listed state-declared-disaster is July; the State request for federal aid was turned down in September), so there wouldn't be any special aid from NY State, either.

Aid possibilities:

* Small Business Administration loan
* Income tax writeoff (I believe there is a high threshold for this, and the value depends on whether there are in fact profits, and the tax rate).

As far as the lawsuit goes, your friend's parents may have to chose between financial ruin and unpopularity. As far as not wanting to carry on a long lawsuit , the storeowners ought to explore whether the town is amenable to mediation or (better yet) binding arbitration, both of which are far cheaper than litigation. Or even going for a settlement (the town may not be admitting anything, but it's very common for governments to agree to pay something rather than pay for a possibly expensive legal battle and a possibly even more expensive adverse judgment after a trial). Consider that the town may have insurance that will pay for some of the costs of a legal settlement.

And, as the previous poster noted, there are lawyers who do these cases on a contingency basis - they get nothing (but expenses; even that may be negotiable) in exchange for a chunk (1/3 or more) of whatever they win.
posted by WestCoaster at 2:20 PM on October 31, 2005

Im curious, has Wal-Mart somehow contributed to the problem or did the town choose to redirect water all on their own?
posted by whatisish at 2:27 PM on October 31, 2005

i'd say publicity and politics are the key ... get the local paper covering it ... consider a recall of elected officials ... at the least, show up to the government meetings and complain loudly ... put the heat on

if they're not willing to make waves over their bread and butter what are they willing to make waves over?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:23 PM on October 31, 2005

Response by poster: Update: It seems it was not as "redirected from the Wal-Mart" as I understood it, but the town is still clearly liable. Basically, the town panicked and tried to figure out how to best pump the water, and instead of dealing with the situation as they knew how to do it they pumped it completely wrong away from the Wal-Mart and into the shopping center.

Politics are involved in everything with this place--I guess it's hard for people to put the heat on when it's their neighbors, or something like that. The friend's parents need the backing of other storeowners, and though they've been having meetings they're having trouble convincing everyone to push forward.
posted by Anonymous at 3:59 PM on October 31, 2005

If it comes down to putting together a press release, its probably worth mentioning that most money spent in wallmart, and other national big box chains like them, leaves the community, while most of the money spent at local businesses stays in the community and rolls from business to business, reinforcing the local economy.

In other words, the city has really shot itself in the foot, tax base wise.
posted by Good Brain at 10:40 PM on October 31, 2005

« Older >> ?   |   How can I be the life and soul of the party? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.