Judge Allows Katrina Lawsuit Against Corps Of Engineers

Judge Allows Katrina Lawsuit Against Corps Of Engineers
March 21st, 2009  
Team Infidel

Topic: Judge Allows Katrina Lawsuit Against Corps Of Engineers

Judge Allows Katrina Lawsuit Against Corps Of Engineers
New York Times
March 21, 2009
Pg. 13

By John Schwartz
A federal judge in New Orleans ruled Friday that a groundbreaking civil lawsuit brought by homeowners who suffered damages during Hurricane Katrina could go forward against the Army Corps of Engineers.
In his ruling, Judge Stanwood J. Duval Jr. of Federal District Court denied an effort by the Department of Justice to have the suit dismissed — the fourth such bid in the nearly three-year-old case — and set a trial date of April 20.
The trial will allow homeowners in New Orleans to make their case that the corps was responsible for the failure of levees along a major navigation channel that inundated parts the city.
The highest hurdle in such cases is the government’s claim of sovereign immunity, which can protect it from certain kinds of lawsuits. A similar suit concerning the failure of the city’s drainage canal floodwalls was dismissed by the same judge based on a law that protects the government from lawsuits over the failure of flood-control projects.
The current suit, Robinson v. United States, focuses not on the failure of flood-control structures but on the damage caused by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a navigation canal on the city’s east side.
In a 65-page order, Judge Duval concluded that internal corps documents suggested there were “substantial questions of fact with respect to the actions and inactions that followed the creation of the channel” that required airing in court.
The trial, expected to last four weeks, will be heard by Judge Duval without a jury.
Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the department was reviewing the ruling.
The government has estimated that damages in the suit could be the largest in United States history, reaching as much as $100 billion.
Beyond the six plaintiffs in the case, more than 400,000 claims have been filed against the government that would have to be dealt with if the plaintiffs win.
Joseph M. Bruno, a New Orleans lawyer involved in the case, suggested that the plaintiffs and their lawyers hoped that Congress would resolve the conflict. Mr. Bruno said that any broad Congressional approach would probably deduct money that people had already received through insurance and the federally financed Road Home program, which has distributed $7.8 billion.
“Nobody here is trying to make a windfall,” he said. “We’re just trying to get people back to where they were before Katrina.”

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