NEW ORLEANS –(March 6, 2012) –Last week, a U.S. appeals court affirmed the ruling of a lower court that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for flooding damage during Hurricane Katrina due to its failure to maintain the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), a navigation waterway that provided a shorter route between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans. Baron and Budd served as trial support in the 2009 trial and worked closely with the trial team throughout the appeals process.
Breaches of the levees during Hurricane Katrina flooded 85 percent of New Orleans with 10 to 20 feet of water, which led to the loss of more than 1200 lives and the devastation of the homes and businesses of more than 80,000 people. In its 2011 Annual Report, the Corps stated that potential liability for the U.S. government from this ruling could reach $100 billion. In the 2009 trial, the judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for several of the breaches.
“The MRGO litigation was something of a test run, or a bellwether trial, that explored unprecedented legal areas and helped establish a legal process for future claimants who may be affected by the Corps’ negligence,” said Russell Budd, president and managing shareholder of Baron and Budd. “Not only does this allow the thousands of people and business harmed by the flooding to receive compensation, but it could affect future lawsuits regarding governmental entities and liability.”
As a result of the negligence of the Corps over 45 years, the width of the MRGO had tripled in size beyond its authorized boundaries, leaving sections of New Orleans highly vulnerable to dangerous flooding. By the time Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, almost 100 square miles of marshland and cypress forest between New Orleans and the Gulf had been destroyed.
The Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the MRGO between 1958 and 1960. The goal of creating such a waterway was to significantly reduce the amount of time needed to travel between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans for shipping reasons. Many environmental groups opposed the project, claiming that it would create a “hurricane highway” by destroying the wetlands that historically served as a buffer or “speed bump” for storms approaching from the Gulf.
Baron and Budd prides itself on tackling cutting-edge environmental litigation. The firm recently served on the leadership committee that spearheaded the BP oil spill litigation and helped negotiate the BP settlement. The firm has represented hundreds of businesses and water providers across the country against many of the nation’s oil giants in water contamination issues.
About Baron & Budd, P.C.
The law firm of Baron & Budd, P.C., with offices in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Austin, Los Angeles and Miami, is a nationally recognized law firm with a 30-year history of “Protecting What’s Right” for people, communities and businesses harmed by negligence. Baron & Budd’s size and resources enable the firm to take on large and complex cases. The firm represents individuals, governmental and business entities in areas as diverse as water contamination, BP oil spill, Qui Tam, California Proposition 65 violations, dangerous medications and medical devices, Chinese drywall, insurance claims, commercial litigation, consumer fraud, securities fraud and asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma. Learn more about the mesothelioma attorneys at Baron & Budd.