Lawsuit Against Army's Corps of Engineers

April 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A lawsuit went to trial in New Orleans Monday seeking to pin blame on the Army Corps of Engineers for much of hurricane Katrina's devastation.It was built in the sixties to serve as a shipping shortcut. Instead, some New Orleans homeowners claim this 76-mile man-made channel known as "Mr. Go", became a superhighway for wind and rain during 2005's hurricane Katrina, washing out levees that would have protected hundreds of homes.

Kent Lattimore, a plaintiff said, "I just saw things that it's like a nuclear bomb went off in New Orleans."

Kent Lattimore and five fellow homeowners will make their case Monday in federal court. They argue the Army Corps of Engineers should be held liable for not properly maintaining "Mr. Go."

Jonathan Andry, the plaintiffs' Attorney said, "You cannot allow an environmental disaster of this magnitude to just fester to the point where it causes billions of dollars in damage and kills hundreds of people."

They claim the Corps created an environmental disaster that destroyed a natural buffer between the gulf.. And the city.

Lattimore said, "We didn't have a marsh shock absorber and I'm sure that you know, the people who were supposed to know, KNEW."

The Corps has long claimed immunity from similar lawsuits, saying the channel is part of New Orleans's flood control system. But the judge ruled against immunity. Finding the channel was intended for shipping, and therefore must be environmentally safe.

It's the first case of its kind to reach federal trial and much is at stake, including billions of dollars in damages.

Oliver Houck, a professor at Tulane University Law School said, "If they win, Katie bar the door because the number of claimants out there for similarly situated money are in the tens of thousands."

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