Supreme Court ruling empowers Texas property owners affected by Hurricane Harvey

Richie Devillier owns about 600 acres in Winnie, which is about an hour east of Houston. It's been in his family since the 1930's.

"I'm fourth generation," he said. "My son will be fifth generation on this property."

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After TXDOT expanded I-10 to three lanes in each direction, Richie's property and all the others nearby were flooded by Hurricane Harvey and all other substantial rainfall events.

"Texas turned Richie's land into a storm water holding facility, and it legally has the right to do that," said Institute For Justice Attorney Andrew Ward.

"Never argued the point that they did what they did and took from us, what they took from us, and the reasons why," Richie said. 

But when Richie wanted TXDOT to pay for the damage, he like many others, heard this.

"Sorry, you can't sue us," he said. "We're sovereign. We're immune to sue."

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Richie took a hard blow from the 5th Circuit Court. That court ruled in favor of the state. 

The Institute For Justice took Richie's case all the way to the Supreme Court. There the Texas Attorney General's Office did an about face.

"They said, actually, he can bring a claim under the fifth amendment in a slightly different way, and the Supreme Court said, 'hey, if that's what you are saying, then he's allowed to bring a claim," said Ward. 

Richie, and more than 100 property owners also impacted, can now proceed with their lawsuits.

According to documents filed by both sides, a settlement could be reached soon.

The Supreme Court ruling is much bigger than this rancher from Winnie and those living around him.

"This clearly protects the rights of property owners throughout the state of Texas," said Ward.

"It's a glorious win," Richie said. "Glory goes to God."