SAN DIEGO — Two Lemon Grove families are feeling major relief after a nearly two-year battle with the city over a busted storm drain that ran beneath their properties.

A judge just ruled the city is liable for the issue after initially telling these families they would need to fix the storm drain on their own. It’s a fix that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I felt backed into a corner from day one,” Shaw Farson said.

The storm drain first began giving way in his backyard in early 2020 and also affected his next door neighbor’s property.

“I knew the cost of the problem was going to approach the cost of my house and that I could literally lose everything. I knew I had to fight this with everything I had,” Farson said.

The issue caused three sinkholes in his backyard. When city inspectors initially came out, Farson says they showed a map from 1960 and said it was a private drain. He sought legal action soon after.

“They used it for the last 60 years which is implied acceptance and they plan on continuing to use it for the next 60 years. The fact of the matter is, they absolutely rely on that storm drain infrastructure to drain their city streets,” Farson said.

Last week a judge ruled in favor of Farson and his neighbor, finding the city liable for the problem.

A statement from City Manager Lydia Romero Thursday acknowledged the ruling:

The first phase of the Farson/Legge v. City of Lemon Grove trial concluded on May 31, 2022.  The Court issued its draft Statement of Decision on June 28 in which it found in favor of the Plaintiffs on the liability phase of the trial.  The City will be preparing to file its objections to the Statement of Decision pursuant to the Court’s order.  The City is also in the process of assessing its options.

Farson says the issue has dragged on long enough and he wants it to be resolved.

“They’ve made us liquidate all of our assets, they made us borrow money from family and we’re at the end. The judge has spoken, he’s passed his judgment and it’s time to work together to do the right thing,” Farson said.

The next phase of this lawsuit is determining what amount the city will owe Farson. He’s asking for his legal fees covered, which have amounted to more than $150,000 and the city would have to pay to fix the drain.

That next phase in court is scheduled for August.