North BR man behind flood lawsuit against city, state speaks out on its importance

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A north Baton Rouge man is leading the charge in a class action lawsuit against the state and parish saying that alleges the groups were negligent during the historic flood.

It has been more than a year since flood waters receded but Bob Applegate says the impact of last August still haunts the people in his north Baton Roug neighborhood.

"To drive through here the vision of the people and the sorrow in their eyes and desperation, it's horrible to look in their eyes," said Applegate.

Pictures he took during the weather event show the devastation as flood waters rose around his Eaton Street home. He has lived there roughly 20 years and never once experienced what he saw then. While that sounds all too familiar in south Louisiana these days, he says this was different.
"I couldn't get past my neighbor's house. I had to lean over with my phone to take the picture," Applegate said. "Five hours later, we could drive right up to the house. What happened in those five hours?"
Applegate says someone from the city told him valves under the street along Winbourne Ave. were shut off while the roadway was being repaved in early 2016. He thinks those valves were never turned back on and believes that is what caused the folks in the area to flood.
"If it's true what we believe, this community needs to be helped and it will be," said Applegate.

He got attorney Kwame Asante involved and the two of them filed the class action lawsuit last Friday. WAFB first reported the story on Tuesday.
The 18-page lawsuit holding the city and state responsible, alleging the damage done in North Baton Rouge was largely due to negligence. So far 51 people have joined the effort.

"We both dusted off our shoes and began walking the community and started talking to people and we're very motivated to see people back in their homes," said Asante.

Applegate says he wants to get to the bottom of what happened and maintains that is what the lawsuit is all about.

WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked Applegate if in fact the city is proven to have been negligent, how important is it for people to know.

"Oh, it's very important," Applegate responded. "If somebody is responsible, they have to say so."

A win for him he says will also be a win for his neighbors and friends. He believes a victory would bring hope to a community too often summed up by its zip code.

"70805.. this is my neighborhood. I live here and I work here. These are my people," Applegate added.

9News has reached out to representatives with the state and parish for comment. They did not immediately return our emails.

Attorneys say they plan to host at least two community meetings within the next 30 days to ensure anyone who wants to join the lawsuit can find out more information. Details on those meetings have not yet been finalized.

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