Judge dismisses apartments’ suit against city

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news_court_greenBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – A federal judge recently tossed out a $4 million lawsuit accusing the city of Tupelo of causing sewage to back up inside an apartment complex.

U.S. Judge Debra Brown dismissed a lawsuit claiming breach of contract and negligence filed a year ago after she determined no “reasonable” jury would find merit in the case.

Evergreen Square LLC and Fountainbleau Management Services LLC accused Tupelo of neglecting to address sewage issues for the 257-unit Evergreen Square apartment complex now operating as President’s Gate Apartment Homes, 922 Lawndale Drive. The companies said city sewage pipes and other infrastructure resulted in sewage backing up into individual apartment units.

Brown supported the city’s defense of not having responsibility for overflow and backup problems at the apartments since Mississippi municipalities have discretion in operation and maintenance of sewerage systems. The federal judge also rejected claims of breach of contract, ruling a city not complying with state regulations isn’t the same as breaking a contract and no proof showed Tupelo responsible for the overflow sewage.

While accusing the city of negligence related to operating the sewer system, attorneys for the apartment and property management companies never showed Tupelo violated laws, Brown said.

“Plaintiffs failed to allege, much less introduce evidence, that the back-ups or resulting overflows violated any of the cited laws or standards,” Brown wrote in the order dismissing the case.

Claude F. Clayton Jr., a Tupelo attorney representing the city, declined to comment since he didn’t have authority to discuss the city’s legal matters.

Efforts by the Daily Journal to reach Memphis-based attorney Joseph T. Getz, who represented companies owning and managing the apartments, were unsuccessful.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com