The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant land-owner was entitled to summary judgment dismissing the complaint alleging the improper diversion of water onto plaintiff's property:
“Landowners making improvements to their land are not liable for damage caused by any resulting flow of surface water onto abutting property as long as the improvements are made in a good faith effort to enhance the usefulness of the property and no artificial means, such as pipes and drains, are used to divert the water thereon” … . “Thus, a plaintiff seeking to recover must establish that the improvements on the defendant's land caused the surface water to be diverted, that damages resulted and either that artificial means were used to effect the diversion or that the improvements were not made in a good faith effort to enhance the usefulness of the defendant's property”… .
Defendant averred that the complained-of work involved the removal of 17 to 25 cubic yards of soil around the entrance to the culvert and that it did not artificially channel water onto plaintiffs' property. He also stated that he performed the work in a good faith effort to create a detention area that would remediate drainage issues on his property in the event that the flow through the culvert was slow or blocked. Defendant further submitted the affidavit of a neighbor of the parties, a civil engineer with experience in stormwater management, who opined that the work did improve drainage and had no effect on the amount of water flowing onto plaintiffs' property. Defendant accordingly met his prima facie burden of demonstrating his entitlement to summary judgment, shifting the burden to plaintiffs to demonstrate that the changes were undertaken in bad faith or diverted additional water onto their property by artificial means… . Silverman v Doell, 2016 NY Slip Op 03054, 3rd Dept 4-21-16