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Ramos Court families claim emotional damages in 2011 canal flood

By: Stacey Welsh

EL PASO, Texas -- A group of families affected by flooding on Ramos Court in El Paso's Lower Valley want a payout from the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 for emotional damages. Many homes in the area are still condemned.

The flood happened in June 2011 after water overran a canal nearby. About 20 families are part of this new lawsuit. Many attended a plea hearing Thursday.

Families received some compensation from the water district after a past lawsuit for property damages. However, the water district's attorney Steve Hughes said the agency could only pay $100,000 total based on state law. That means each family only received about $5,000.

Hughes said the agency should only compensate the families for physical injuries this time around because the water district believes employees working on the canal caused the flood, not the canal's structure itself.

He said for the families to receive compensation for emotional damage, the damage to the canal "must arise from the [canal] itself, not from the action of employees."

Hughes also said the water district would only be able to pay $300,000 total if the families were to win a lawsuit for emotional damage. However, that cost could be less if they were only awarded compensation for physical damages.

Families affected tell KFOX14 anything could help, because many have not been able to live in their homes for the past three years.

"I need a home. I need my home. I can't do things there that I could do in my home. It's not comfortable," former Ramos Court resident Brenda Ochoa said.

Ochoa also said she never expected this to happen because her parents previously owned the house since the 1940s.

"Everything in the home that was touching the ground has been lost; sofas, dressers, beds. All that had to be replaced," Ochoa said.

A judge is reviewing the case and will need to decide whether the Ramos Court families can claim emotional damages. After that, the case could go to trial.