Federal Judge Holds Army Corps Responsible for Katrina Flooding

Friday, November 20, 2009

Victims of Hurricane Katrina won their first battle against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday when a federal judge in New Orleans ruled the government was liable for faulty maintenance that allowed flooding in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower 9th Ward. At issue was the upkeep of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO), a shipping channel built in the 1950s, through which the hurricane’s storm surge poured into neighborhoods, causing catastrophic damage to the area.

“The failure of the Corps to recognize the destruction that the MRGO had caused and the potential hazard that it created is clearly negligent on the part of the Corps,” said U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. in his ruling. “Furthermore, the Corps not only knew, but admitted by 1988, that the MRGO threatened human life ... and yet it did not act in time to prevent the catastrophic disaster that ensued with the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina.”
Duval found in favor of three local residents and a business owner who are seeking $700,000 in damages. More importantly, however, the ruling could open the way for other judgments sought by Katrina victims which could total in the billions of dollars. The Justice Department, representing the Army Corps of Engineers, is expected to appeal the decision to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Ruling Against Corps of Engineers Opens Door for Katrina Victims (by Sabrina Canfield, Courthouse News Service)


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