Federal Judge Rules Federal Government Liable for Some Flooding From Katrina
Judge Braden of the US Court of Federal Claims ruled that the United States is liable for at least some flood damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Judge Susan G. Braden ruled that the United States is liable for at least some of the flood damage caused in during Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 from the failure of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet canal. The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet–nicknamed MR-GO– was linked to flood damage in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and damage to the nearby St. Bernard Parish. However, Judge Braden’s decision set a mediation hearing for May 6, 2015 in an alternative measure to determine how much government would be liable for.
Judge Braden praised the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for being “open, transparent and helpful in educating the court to understand what happened” while simultaneously critical of the Department of Justice for “pursuing a litigation strategy of contesting each and every issue”.
Most importantly, this case is the first instance where the federal government was found liable for damage associated with flooding from Hurricane Katrina. Prior claims have been generally unsuccessful due to the government’s immunity for claims resulting from failed flood control projects.
The initial case (in 2006) was brought in the Federal District Court, for the Eastern District of Louisiana seated in New Orleans, and ruled that because MR-GO’s purpose was for navigation, rather than flood control, the damage was different. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court’s decision and the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari (to hear the case).
Judge Braden’s decision relied on Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States, allowing the Akransas Game & Fish Commission to recover under the takings clause since “recurrent flooding, even if [limited in] duration, are not categorically exempt from Takings Clause liability.” Ark. Game & Fish Comm’n v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 511, 516 (2012).
Mr. Joseph Bruno, a New Orleans lawyer who lost the initial case before the District Court in New Orleans said that note next question is whether the lawsuit will be expanded into a class action lawsuit.
Read the New York Times Article here.
St. Bernard Parish Gov’t v. United States, 2015 U.S. Claims LEXIS 526 (Fed. Cl. May 1, 2015).