Louisiana Rep Says its Time for Feds to Settle MRGO Lawsuits

A Louisiana lawmaker has urged federal authorities to reach a settlement over lawsuits stemming from Hurricane Katrina flooding that has been blamed on the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/MRGO-Flood-Lawsuit">Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, also known as MRGO. Late last year, a federal judge found the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers liable for the flooding because of its failure to properly maintain MRGO.

MRGO was built to allow ships easier access between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. In order to build it, the Army Corps of Engineers cut through 76 miles of swamp and wetlands that had once served to protect the Crescent City from destructive storm surges, like the one that accompanied Katrina. Flood victims had claimed that during the storm, the MRGO acted as a funnel, and pulled much of Katrina’s storm surge into the New Orleans and St. Bernard.

In November, U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. awarded over $719,000 to four different sets of MRGO flooding plaintiffs. Judge Duval’s ruling found that the Corps of Engineers’ negligent failure to maintain and operate MRGO properly was a substantial cause for the fatal breaching of the Reach 2 Levee and the subsequent catastrophic flooding of the St. Bernard Polder following Hurricane Katrina. The judge then went on to rule that the Corp’s failure to provide timely foreshore protection doomed the channel to grow to three times its design width and destroyed the banks which would have helped to protect the levee.

If Judge Duval’s landmark ruling is upheld on appeal, thousands of individuals and entities whose property was damaged or destroyed in Hurricane Katrina flooding could be eligible for compensation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The U.S. Department of Justice has not said yet whether or not it will appeal.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville said last week that the federal government should not appeal, and should act now to settle MRGO lawsuits. “These families cannot afford to endure years in court while their government continues to frustrate their hopes of a resolution, ” stated Melancon, in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “In light of the president’s steadfast dedication to recovery and Duval’s findings, I request that your office begin negotiations with these plaintiffs to resolve their claims and allow them to continue rebuilding their lives.”

Melancon is a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican David Vitter. Vitter is also on record as supporting a settlement of the MRGO claims.

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