The Wallace Firm, along with Jacoby & Meyers, Ivie McNeill Wyatt Purcell & Diggs and Engelman Law, obtained a $2.5 million global settlement against the City of Victorville on behalf of the family of Michael Williams, who suffered a horrific and preventable drowning when he was unexpectedly swept away by flood waters in 2017.
Through discovery, it came to light that the City of Victorville was well-aware of the dangerous conditions on Pebble Beach Drive at the Oro Grande Wash, yet failed to take action and barricade the location to prevent motorists from entering. The area was well-known to residents and the City to be subject to flash flooding, but the City deliberately did not heed multiple impending weather warnings days before the flood.
“Michael’s death was easily preventable and we’re glad to see the City is being held accountable for their negligence and blatant disregard of numerous warnings of this particular area. The City had ample notice of the coming rain storm and although they initiated ‘Storm Duty,’ in which Department employees could clear storm drains and debris, they omitted one of the most dangerous areas in the City, and failed to close off flooded streets which cost Michael his life.”lead counsel Bradley Wallace, Founder of The Wallace Firm.
The Wallace Firm and Jacoby & Meyers represented Joel Williams, Michael’s wife, and Jaden Williams, Michael’s son. Ivie McNeill Wyatt Purcell & Diggs and Engelman Law represented Kaylin Williams, Michael’s daughter.
On February 17, 2017, Michael Williams was driving in a residential neighborhood in the City of Victorville and was unexpectedly swept away by flood waters. He was trapped in his car as the flood waters and debris submerged his vehicle, and suffered a horrific drowning death.
The City was well-aware of the dangerous conditions on Pebble Beach Drive at the Oro Grande Wash, an area that many residents expressed concern over during times of rain and had a history of flash flooding. The City also had ample advance notice of the likelihood of flash flooding as well as local weather reports and National Weather Service warnings.
Despite all the advance warnings, the City failed to take action to barricade the location and prevent motorists from entering. Two cars, including Michael’s vehicle, were overwhelmed and washed away by the flood waters. The other motorist was dramatically saved by San Bernardino SWIFT water rescue units and helicopter evacuation, after he managed to escape his vehicle and retreat to the roof of his car. Sadly, rescue workers were unable to save Michael.
The Department of Public Works, the City department in charge of maintaining the streets in response to rain storms, will occasionally place Department employees on “Storm Duty” when they are concerned that a storm might be breaking over the City. Storm Duty involves clearing out storm drains, catch basins and drainage of channels of mud, leaves or debris to ensure water is able to flow freely and mitigate the potential for street flooding.
The City activated Storm Duty the day before the incident (February 16, 2017), where employees performed these maintenance activities in all the predesignated areas except for the area where Michael lost his life. The City has no explanation for this omission although there was a clear risk in this area coupled with its known history of dangerous conditions.
Weather advisories from the National Weather service issued flash flood warnings as early as February 15, 2017, two days before Michael’s death. Despite all the forewarnings of the impending rain and actual notice of the flooding at the subject area through deputy reports, they waited 30 minutes to respond to the area.
On June 17, 2021, the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Bernardino approved a global settlement of $2.5 million.