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Katrina Victims See Justice, Ruling Paves the Way for Class Actions

New Orleans, LA: A landmark ruling was made this week made in favor or New Orleans-area residents who suffered property loss and/or damage from flooding related to Hurricane Katrina.

The judgement is precedent setting and, if upheld, could pave the way for more than 100,000 addition victims, including residents, businesses and government entities, to file or join class action lawsuits claiming damages against the government.

According to a report in the New York Times (Nov 18, 2009), Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. of Federal District Court wrote the following with respect to the liability of the US Army Corps of Engineers in the failure of the navigation canal, the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, known as MR-GO (pronounced Mister 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."

The decision, finding in favor of plaintiffs who lived in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish, east of the city, represents the first time the government has been held liable for any of the flooding that took place in and around New Orleans during and after August 29, 2005, when hurricane Katrina struck. Furthermore, it vindicates those who have long believed that the flooding that occurred was not strictly an "Act of God."

The lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case against the Corps of Engineers was pleased with the decision, and is seeking compensation on behalf of his clients, he told a press conference.

According to a report on Fox News (Nov 19, 2009), Judge Duval also stated in his ruling that "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... 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."

The plaintiffs who filed against the Corps of Engineers, one business owner and five residents, will each receive about $170,000. But this ruling could end up costing the federal government billions. So far, almost 500,000 people have filed Katrina-related claims against the government.

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