Attorneys for the displaced residents say the owner of the park should have done more to warn residents of the dangers posed by the creek and compensated them for the loss of their possessions. They have sued Holly Acres owner Hank Ridge for $5 million.
The suit is being brought by the Charlottesville-based Legal Aid Justice Center with the District firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
“The park owner and manager collected rent every month for years without doing anything meaningful to protect the residents or give them adequate warning that their homes were in danger,” said Jeff Gans, a partner at the D.C. firm, in a news release.
Gans said in an interview that attorneys have sought to work out a deal, but that litigation became necessary when progress stalled. Ridge, Gans said, has not provided compensation to the former tenants of the park. “He still holds some of the security deposits and we think owes additional money,” Gans said.
Ridge recently settled a lawsuit with Prince William County over the flooding, which the owner said the county had known about and should have done more to address. Mark Moorstein, Ridge’s attorney, said the tenants’ lawsuit was “shortsighted.”
“It’s an act of God,” he said of the flood. “It wasn’t Hank Ridge.”
In the aftermath of the storm, Prince William officials barred the mobile homes from being rebuilt, saying that to do so could result in the county being kicked out of the FEMA flood insurance program. Ridge sued the county for $8 million.
Ridge alleged that he would have been allowed to rebuild if the low-income, largely Latino community’s demographics were different. County officials denied those accusations.
In the end, Ridge’s lawsuit against the county was settled in February, allowing FEMA to referee how many homes could safely be rebuilt. Most of the park has not yet been reconstructed, Moorstein said.