Court: The State is responsible for the flood

Autor:

27.11.2018.

Drenovci, Slavonija, 200514.
Reportaza sa poplavljenog podrucja u Slavoniji. Rijeka Sava nabujala je nakon obilnih padavina i pritoka iz BiH i poplavila podrucje sela Gunjevo i Rajevo selo gdje je uzela i ljudske zrtve. Na fotografiji: pripadnici vojske i policije spasavaju stoku u mjestu Rajevo selo
Foto: Tom Dubravec / CROPIX
Tom Dubravec / CROPIX

Flood in Slavonija,river Sava

Šimun company won against Croatia in first-instance ruling

The Osijek Commercial Court found Republic of Croatia responsible for failure of the Sava levee near Rajevo Selo and Račinovci on 17 May 2014 in a first-instance ruling, which caused a cataclysm that struck six settlements in Posavina - Rajevo Selo, Račinovci, Gunja, Strošinci, Đurići and Posavski Podgajci - with two people killed in Rajevo Selo and a total of 17,631 locals evacuated.

Šimun automobile repair company from Vinkovci sued the State, which announced an appeal. The company called for compensation of HRK 6,162,657.75 for damage to buildings, movable assets, tools, furniture and equipment, but judge Mirjana Baran ruled that the company is entitled to 3,649,484.88 plus penalty interest. In short, the Court ruled that the State as owner and Hrvatske vode (HV) water utility as the company in charge of maintaining the levee are responsible for failure of the levee as relevant bodies failed to perform required testing. In addition, the Court rejected the claim that the flood was a 100-year-flood caused by higher power, but found it to be a natural phenomenon.

Expert opinion

During the process, relevant documentation was examined, including expert opinion of the international expert commission which analyzed the causes of failure after the flood. Then responsible persons in HV were questioned and had status of interveners. Then general director of HV Ivica Plišić pointed out that the company "had enough employees working on flood defense, enough mechanization and sandbags as well as enough employees monitoring the full length of the levee."

-Problems with the levee near Rajevo Selo could not have been revealed in regular inspections, while overflow near Račinovci was visible and an intervention was made with the aim of preventing failure. Some 59 interventions were made that night with the aim of preventing failure and interventions were made in all locations where they were necessary - said Plišić in court.

However, the Court analyzed conclusions of the expert commission and concluded that "cause of levee failure near Rajevo Selo was unfavorable soil type beneath the levee. Relevant bodies failed to perform soil testing and failed to notice that a thin layer of clay was present beneath the levee, under which there were layers of sand or gravel, which caused hydraulic instability of the levee, the cause of levee failure near Rajevo Selo and Račinovci."

Oversight and gross negligence

"The Court concluded that relevant bodies tasked with maintaining the levee are guilty of oversight and gross negligence as they did not implement all measures required for minimizing risk of levee failure or perform required soil testing under the levee. This means that HV is responsible and guilty because it failed to perform required tests and implement measures. The defendant is responsible for the mistakes which led to failure of the levee and flooding as well as damage caused to the plaintiff."

The Court noted that the defense cannot claim this was "an extreme weather phenomenon that led to failure of the levee and catastrophic flooding" as reason for exemption from liability, especially since the defendant failed to act in accordance with rules aimed at preventing damage. The HV was obligated to implement all measures needed to ascertain stability of the levee, which it failed to do, which is why Republic of Croatia, responsible for damage caused by the HV, cannot claim exemption from liability.

HV was responsible for implemented required measures with the aim of ascertaining stability of the levee, which is failed to do. Republic of Croatia, responsible for damage caused by the HV, cannot claim exemption from liability.

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