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Mr. Go, Katrina Damage and the New Orleans Recovery

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 20, 2009 5:50 AM

As recently discussed in Findlaw's Decided, Wednesday was a day of consequences for the residents of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. The Lower Ninth took one of the major hits in the Katrina disaster and is still figuratively, if not literally, under water. U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood Duval, Jr. did his best Wednesday to throw a life preserver to the Lower Ninth and give a push to the New Orleans recovery. In a major decision, Judge Duval held in favor of four plaintiffs in their suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the negligent building and maintenance of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet canal, "Mr. Go." Judge Duval's decision may open the door to claims from as many as 100,000 more litigants.

So, who will this decision actually help?

It appears that only claimants with properties affected by flooding due to the work on Mr. Go have a possibility of being compensated. Other properties in other areas affected only by the levees themselves will not be likely to have successful claims. As discussed in FindLaw's Decided, work by the Corps on the levees themselves is protected from damage claims by the theory of "sovereign immunity".

For example, four plaintiffs were successful and were awarded damages in this case. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Anthony and Lucille Franz, Tanya Smith and Kent Lattimore all received between $100,000 and $317,00 in compensation for damages to homes and businesses. 

However, two other plaintiffs, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robinson (a local news anchor) had their suit dismissed. Their property damage was not found to be affected as a direct result of the Corps dredging of Mr. Go. This decision may leave many residents in their area of eastern New Orleans out in terms of recovery from the Corps.

What follows will certainly include and appeal from the Corps. For locals, recovery goes on, even with the assistance of this court ruling. New Orleanian Lorraine Washington told the Christian Science Monitor the process is really "... about being made whole again."

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