(CN) – Flooding of 100 North Dakota homes was caused by an act of God, not by government drainage projects, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled. Homeowners near Devil’s Lake sued the state of North Dakota and several water districts, claiming the government caused the lake to rise above its high-water mark and damage their property.
The plaintiffs claimed negligence, trespass and unconstitutional taking of property.
The district court ruled that their evidence that the government drainage projects caused the flooding was “unreliable and speculative.”
By contrast, the defendants’ expert presented evidence that Devil’s Lake had overflowed naturally nine times in the last 10,000 years.
On appeal, the plaintiffs said the district court used an erroneous “substantial part” standard instead of the correct “but for” standard. However, Justice Sandstrom ruled that the state Supreme Court does not need to determine the correct standard.
“We conclude that the landowners invited the district court to use that formulation,” Sandstrom concluded.
The court affirmed dismissal of the inverse condemnation claims.