Ruiz v. County of San Diego

Facts: A property owner purchased a home unaware an underground storm drainpipe ran through their property. When the property was developed, the county rejected an offer of dedication from the developer to create a public easement for the storm drain. The county did not maintain the drainpipe.  The property flooded during rainstorms damaging furniture and floor coverings since the drainpipe had deteriorated and no longer carried the storm waters away.

Claim: The owner seeks money losses from the county for water damage to their property due to the failed drainpipe, claiming the county was obligated to maintain the drainpipe since they implicitly used it to prevent flooding, creating a public easement improvement.

Counterclaim: The county claims it has no obligation to maintain the underground storm drainpipe and thus has no liability for its failure since the drainpipe is located on private property and an easement offered by the developer was rejected.

Holding: A California appeals court holds the underground storm drainpipe is not a public improvement and the owner is not entitled to their money losses since the drainpipe is located on private property and was not the subject of an easement. [Ruiz v. County of San Diego (March 17, 2020)_CA6th_]

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