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Class-action lawsuit claims negligence in Oroville Spillway incident

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OROVILLE, Calif. - A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the California Department of Water Resources in Butte County on behalf of the 188,000 residents who were evacuated February 12 because of the Oroville Dam's emergency spillway.

Three evacuees represent the 188,000 evacuees as plaintiffs in the case: Francis Bechtel, Jacob Klein and Mary Watson.

The suit was filed by Los Angeles-based law firms McNicholas & McNicholas LLP and Frantz Law Group, APLC.

The plaintiff's attorneys said, "This event was the result of DWR's negligence and inadequate maintenance of the dam over several years."

It also claims that the DWR's conduct in the operation of the dam was "a substantial factor in causing harm to the Plaintiffs who... continue to be concerned about the stigma associated with the dam failure, the potential for future failures and the implications on property values."

"They didn't seem to really care how they took care of that dam," said James Frantz, one of the Plaintiff's attorneys. "As a result we almost had a catastrophe of tens of thousands of people being killed."

"They should have been looking at the maintenance records. They should have been looking at the construction records, and they would have known that over time the dam was destined to fail," said attorney, Patrick McNicholas.

Neither attorney gave a number as to how much they think each evacuee is entitled, but said they'll be ready if the case moves forward.

The Plaintiff's attorneys predicted it would take between one and three years to either litigate or settle out of court.

The Department of Water Resources responded saying they do not comment on ongoing litigation.

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