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Friday, November 20, 2009

Small Talk:
Katrina: Army Corps Engineers Negligent

The Grio and the Examiner are reporting some good news for Hurricane Katrina victims. Federal Judge Stanwood Duval ruled that the devastating flooding of New Orleans 9th Ward was a result of human error. From the Examiner:
The judge sided with 6 residents and 1 business in a suit filed against the Corps. It is all based on the Mr. Go which stands for the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, which was built by the Army to allow for water traffic from the city directly to the Gulf of Mexico. The plaintiffs blame poor design and planning as negligence. In a 156 page ruling, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said he was "utterly convinced" that the corps' failure to shore up the channel doomed it "to grow to two to three times its design width" and that "created a more forceful frontal wave attack on the levee" that protected St. Bernard and the Lower 9th Ward. Read more.
This is a huge victory for Katrina victims. If the ruling holds up against appeal, it could give Katrina victims of the 9th Ward precedence to seek individual compensation for their losses. However, lawyers for the victims would ideally like to cease litigation and work on settlement arrangements with Congress. From The Grio:

Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said that if Duval's ruling holds up on appeal, he would expect Congress to approve a federal settlement rather than going through individual trials. Total damages could reach into the billions of dollars.

The plaintiffs' lawyers hoped to head off more litigation by appealing directly to Congress.

"It's time to stop litigating and start negotiating," said Pierce O'Donnell, a Los Angeles attorney who was one of the lead lawyers on the case. "With Judge Duval's ruling, we now have a weapon."

The plaintiffs' lawyers said they would approach congressional leaders after Thanksgiving with a list of demands to settle the case. They said the federal government needs to compensate victims throughout the city, fix the region's broken infrastructure, restore the wetlands of south Louisiana and overhaul the way the corps operates. Read more.

I hope the people of New Orleans get what they deserve.
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