Northdale Sanitary District provides green light for testing following public meeting to address safety
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The second and final phase of core-sample drilling is underway in the Hideaway Hills neighborhood, bringing residents one step closer to determining the extent of danger caused by abandoned state-owned gypsum mines that have created dangerous collapses.
An expert team from Western Engineers & Geologists received approval to proceed from the Northdale Sanitary District earlier this month. The drill-site holes are four inches in diameter and will be backfilled and capped once the core samples are obtained. The work will be closely monitored. No drilling will take place within the primary collapse site, and the procedure will follow industry best practices for safety.
The Fox Rothschild law firm represents Hideaway Hills residents seeking damages from the state of South Dakota, which owns subsurface rights to the property.
“Tests performed so far are helpful in determining areas where voids and unstable areas may be, but core-sample drilling is the best practice for obtaining the kind of precise answers that this case demands,” said Fox Rothschild attorney Kathleen Barrow.
The legal team recently took sworn depositions from state officials and a former executive of the state-owned Dacotah cement plant, with more depositions to come. In May, the lawsuit won a key ruling from Circuit Court Judge Kevin Krull, who found that the homeowners “demonstrated that their injuries likely will be redressed by a favorable decision – i.e., an award of damages, based on their constitutional right to individually bring an inverse condemnation case against the State.”
It is the only lawsuit related to the mine collapse to survive a motion to dismiss and move forward to discovery to date. The next step in the litigation will be to seek class certification in October.
“The purpose of this lawsuit is to provide a way for every Hideaway Hills homeowner to obtain relief, and class-action certification provides an effective and efficient way to do just that,” Ms. Barrow said.
A mine collapse in April 2020 caused a large sinkhole in the neighborhood, prompting the evacuation of several households. Many homeowners remain unable to return to their homes, while more than 100 property owners throughout the neighborhood have been unable to sell and have seen property values plummet.
The case is Andrew Morse and John and Emily Clarke et al. v. State of South Dakota et al., No. 46CIV-20-000295 in the Circuit Court, 4th Judicial District, County of Meade, South Dakota.
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