Federal Flood Insurance Law Preempts State Challenges To FEMA Methods

Friday, February 23, 2018 5:20 am
March 2018 - Volume 46 Number 3

Landowners cannot sue FEMA’s independent contractors over the validity of their floodway determinations because federal statute preempts all state law claims.

Facts: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hired Dewberry & Davis, LLC (Dewberry) to provide a hydraulic model of land along the Congaree River in South Carolina. FEMA used the model to reassess its flood elevation maps. Relying on Dewberry’s model, FEMA designated a large part of property owned by Columbia Venture, LLC (Columbia Venture) as part of the Congaree River floodway. This designattion prevented Columbia Venture from developing the property, greatly reducing the property’s value.

Columbia Venture challenged the designation under section 4104 of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA), alleging that the designation was scientifically or technically incorrect. Columbia Venture lost this challenge, and the designation stood. Columbia Venture then sued Dewberry in federal court, alleging state law claims of professional malpractice, civil conspiracy, injurious falsehood and unfair and deceptive trade practices. Columbia Venture alleged that Dewberry’s hydraulic model was flawed and[..]