Hurricane Katrina victims were awarded $719,698 in damages by a judge in a lawsuit claiming a canal dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico destroyed a natural barrier to a storm surge.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr., who heard the trial in New Orleans without a jury, yesterday found in favor of four residents and one business, while rejecting the claims of the owners of another property. The decision will support the claims of about 100,000 residents and business owners in the area, plaintiffs’ lawyers said, according to Bloomberg.
It was the first time a U.S. court has found the federal government directly responsible for some of the damage caused on Aug. 29, 2005, when Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and caused some $80 billion in damage.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said the Corps, responsible for the upkeep of a system of canals and earthen works that protect New Orleans from storm surges, was guilty of "negligent failure" to maintain the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, or the MR-GO.
"It is the court's opinion that the negligence of the Corps, in this instance by failing to maintain the MR-GO properly, was not policy, but insouciance, myopia and shortsightedness," Duval wrote in a 189-page decision, Reuters informs.
In a statement Wednesday, the Army corps said only that the opinion was being reviewed by lawyers from the Army and Justice Department. "We have no further comment at this time as the issues involved in the case are still subject to further litigation," the corps said.
At the heart of the case was maintenance and operation of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, The Los Angeles Times reports.