Current Cases

Edenville and Sanford Dam Failure Litigation

Status Current Case

Practice area Environmental Toxic Torts Complex Tort Litigation

Court Michigan Court of Claims Circuit Court, Saginaw County, Michigan

Case number 20-000121-MM, 20-042348-ND3


On June 24, 2020, Cohen Milstein filed two separate property damage lawsuits against Michigan state government agencies, including the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy and Michigan Department of Natural Resources for blatantly mismanaging and failing to properly maintain the Edenville and Sandford dams, which catastrophically failed on May 19, 2020. Cohen Milstein is representing more than 300 residents and businesses in Midland County and Saginaw County, Michigan and the surrounding areas, including, Arenac, Gladwin, and losco counties.

The lawsuits were filed in the Michigan Court of Claims and the Circuit Court for the County of Saginaw, Michigan.

Case Background

For decades, the Edenville Dam was unable to meet federal or state standards for flood capacity. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) routinely cited violations to federal regulations and to the terms of the FERC license. These violations were so egregious that FERC eventually ordered the dam operators to cease power generation at Edenville Dam and revoked Boyce Hydro Power, LLC’s license to operate the Dam.

In 2018, Michigan State agencies, assumed regulatory responsibility for the Edenville Dam. Plaintiffs allege that the agencies knew that the Edenville Dam lacked the requisite capacity to handle a significant flood. Yet, no action was taken to address spillway capacity or to mitigate the risk of dam failure. To the contrary, Defendants actually raised the water level of Wixom Lake, the reservoir behind the Edenville Dam.

On May 19, 2020, the inevitable occurred. After years of alleged mismanagement, the Edenville Dam failed after heavy rainfall and flash flooding on the Tittabawassee and Tobacco rivers, which led to the Sanford Dam to becoming overwhelmed and also failing, causing historic flooding throughout Midland County and Saginaw County, Michigan and the surrounding areas, including, Arenac, Gladwin, and losco counties.

Nearly 10,000 residents in Midland County and the surrounding areas were evacuated, and lost homes, business and other property. The resulting flooding caused millions of dollars in property damage. The dam failure also drained Wixom and Sanford Lakes, severely reducing the value of surrounding property and businesses.

Plaintiffs seek damages on behalf of themselves in the form of property damage and destruction; loss of the use and enjoyment of property; diminished value of real and personal property, residence, and business; and loss of future earnings.

The Plaintiffs are represented by Cohen Milstein’s Theodore J. Leopold and Leslie M. Kroeger.

This case is named: Borchard v. Michigan Department of Environment, et. al., Case No. 20-000121-MM, Mich. Crt. Of Claims; and Borchard v. Boyce Hydro Power, et. al., Case No. 20-042348-ND3, Cir. Crt., Cty. Saginaw, Mich.