KBK Files Claims on Behalf of Flood Victims in Monterey, Santa Cruz, Merced and Tulare Counties

Kabateck LLP represents those who have suffered injuries, property damage, evacuation costs, or other damages due to the floods that affected those in Monterey, Santa Cruz, Merced and Tulare counties between January and March 2023.

Merced Flood Levee Breaks

Pajaro Flood

The massive flooding of the Pajaro River and its tributaries started on December 31, 2022, and continued until the March 2023 levee breach. In July, flood victims in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties filed claims against local government entities, the first step before filing a civil lawsuit.

Hundreds of low-income, working-class residents suffered life-changing damages due to the breach of the Pajaro Watershed, which includes the Pajaro River and its surrounding tributaries, including Corralitos Creek and Salsipuedes Creek, which caused extensive flooding, significant damage to homes, and displaced thousands of families. Many of those most impacted by the floods are filing government claims against Monterey County, Santa Cruz County, the City of Watsonville, the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency, and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.

The claimants aim to hold the public entities accountable for their failure to prioritize the protection of vulnerable communities and to seek compensation for the immense loss and hardship they have endured. The claims allege that the governmental entities knew that the Pajaro Watershed was in substantial danger of breaching and failed to protect their residents.

The affected communities, particularly the unincorporated town of Pajaro and the City of Watsonville, have long suffered neglect and inequity from state and local officials, exacerbating the impact of this devastating event.

“The flooding has shed light on the deep-rooted marginalization and inequality faced by the residents of this agricultural region, where migrant farm workers form a significant part of the population,” said lead plaintiff attorney Brian Kabateck. “Our clients are the forgotten Californians who are homeowners, renters, farm workers, and small business owners who feel abandoned by their local government.”


Merced Flood House and Agriculture

Decades of flawed flood protection plans by the Army Corps of Engineers have perpetuated the disparity between affluent communities and neglected areas like Pajaro and the City of Watsonville. Studies detail how the local government has consistently prioritized areas with higher home values and disregarded the protection needs of low-income communities such as Pajaro and the City of Watsonville, primarily surrounded by prime agricultural land.

Despite Congress authorizing the reconstruction of the levee in 1966, tangible progress has yet to be made to date. Tragically, major flooding events occurred in 1995 and 1998, resulting in loss of life and extensive damage. The affected residents, who have been living with a constant fear of recurrence, demand immediate action and an end to this cycle of negligence.

“Our claim asserts that the City of Watsonville and counties of Monterey and Santa Cruz may have fallen short in protecting their residents. The flooding has profoundly impacted the community, and those responsible must be held accountable,” expressed co-lead plaintiff attorney Marina Pacheco.

The destructive floods triggered frustration, anger, and anxiety among Pajaro and Watsonville residents, forcing them out of their homes and into shelters, motels, and even their cars.

“These people need help. We hope that fighting back in court will lead to meaningful change for the future,” added Kabateck.


Merced County Floods

In Merced County, hundreds of residents and small business owners also filed government claims to hold public entities accountable for failing to maintain the flooded creeks and channels adequately. The affected communities include Merced, McSwain, Atwater, and Planada, which suffered extensive property damage, agricultural losses, and other losses due to the inundation of floodwaters.

The public entities facing legal action include the County of Merced, the City of Merced, and the Merced Irrigation District (MID), which residents contend are responsible for maintaining the creeks and flood control measures. Residents also filed claims against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is claimed to have prevented local entities from performing essential maintenance work.

“Many families impacted by this preventable disaster already lived in difficult conditions and had limited means. The government’s failure to protect them was reckless. The filing of these claims marks an important step towards seeking justice and fair compensation for the damages suffered by the residents and businesses affected by the flooding,” said co-lead plaintiff attorney Shant Karnikian.

Between January and March 2023, a series of atmospheric river storms unleashed trillions of gallons of water across the state, leading to severe flooding incidents. Raging waters from local waterways engulfed parts of the City of Merced and neighboring Planada, resulting in the evacuation order for all 4,000 Planada residents. Water levels rose as high as 5 feet, causing extensive damage to homes and businesses.


Home Damage from Flooding Merced California
Merced Flood

Similarly, the City of Atwater experienced widespread flooding of streets, residences, and agricultural fields. The impact of the floods was felt beyond Merced County, as Pescadero and various areas along the Central Coast suffered from erosion, submerged farm fields, damaged roads, and flooded homes. Migrant farmers and workers in these regions faced significant challenges in finding employment after the historic storms.

“More must be done to safeguard vulnerable communities in need. The government’s failure to fulfill its basic duties to protect residents and maintain essential infrastructure has resulted in hard-working vulnerable families and small business owners bearing the brunt of this disaster,” said co-lead plaintiff attorney Stephanie Charlin.

The floods displaced thousands of individuals, intensifying the hardships faced by these communities. Many affected residents lacked flood insurance and the financial resources to rebuild. Insufficient infrastructure, including storm drains and streetlights, further underscores the absence of government support in the affected areas.

“This tragic reality highlights the systemic inequities that prioritize wealthier communities, perpetuating a cycle of neglect and disparity. We must recognize and rectify this injustice, ensuring that every community, regardless of their economic status or ethnic background, receives the support and protection they deserve,” said co-lead plaintiff attorney Brian Kabateck.

Tulare Woodlake Flood

The community of Woodlake in Tulare County suffered extreme flooding in early March 2023 after water run-off from Antelope Creek spilled into the roadways and residential neighborhoods. Orchards and homes experienced extensive damage because water overflowed from Yokohl Creek. The KBK trial team is assisting residents and farmers who blame the Tulare County Resource Management Agency for rusted, unmaintained floodgates that caused their property and surrounding homes to become flooded.

Merced County Flood Lawsuit Claims Consultation Form

If you were impacted by the Merced Flood, you may have a case. Contact us below for a free consultation.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Should you or someone close to you have experienced property destruction, personal harm, or evacuation expenses as a result of the 2023 Merced Floods, reach out to us for a complimentary consultation or send us a message from our form above. You might be eligible to obtain financial compensation for your losses. Our services are provided with no upfront fees, and charges will only apply if we successfully retrieve funds on your behalf.



Taxpayers Could Be on the Hook if Fire Ignites in Homeless Encampment

View More

Wildfire Panel Recommends Extending Safeguards to Water Agencies

View More

California Water Utilities Seek Relief from Fire Lawsuits

View More

Your Justice Team

The KBK team is our most valuable resource and the reason for our success.
The KBK justice team is committed to holding insurance companies responsible. If you have been impacted by the California Wildfires, the attorneys at KBK are here to help.

Kabateck LLP is a nationally renowned plaintiff’s firm that litigates complex cases with an impressive record of success. KBK has recovered more than a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements for its clients. These notable victories have made a significant impact in the legal community and resulted in better consumer protections in the areas of personal injury, insurance bad faith, pharmaceutical litigation, wrongful death, class action, mass torts and disaster litigation. KBK is a full-service contingent fee law firm that values every case equally and is committed to maximizing recovery.

The firm’s landmark cases have received extensive, national media coverage. Founding and Managing Partner, Brian Kabateck is frequently requested by news outlets to provide insight and commentary on all legal issues. Because of his deep knowledge of the law and dynamic speaking style, Mr. Kabateck is a frequent contributor to national, local and legal media outlets. He makes regular appearances on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and CW stations. In addition to his television, radio and print exposure, Mr. Kabateck often speaks at seminars, law schools and industry events.

Receive a Free Case Evaluation

Click Here