A federal judge has whittled down a lawsuit filed by a hurricane expert who alleges he was fired by LSU after he criticized levee work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Ivor van Heerden co-founded the LSU Hurricane Center and was serving as its deputy director when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, flooding much of New Orleans.
On numerous occasions, van Heerden criticized the New Orleans levee work done by the corps. He made the attacks in testimony before Congress, the state Legislature, on national television interviews and in his book, “The Storm.”
Van Heerden alleges LSU fired him because his statements about the corps’ alleged failures and mistakes that led to catastrophic flooding of New Orleans during Katrina were hurting LSU’s chances of getting more federal money.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady ruled in favor of LSU and some of its employees Thursday, dismissing several parts of the suit. He also ruled in favor of van Heerden on one part.
Two other parts of the suit also remain alive.
The court granted a summary judgment to LSU on the claim that the university breached van Heerden’s contract and that it intentionally inflicted emotional distress on van Heerden.
Brady also granted a summary judgment to several individual LSU defendants on van Heerden’s claims of First Amendment retaliation against him.
However, Brady denied a motion for summary judgment by David Constant, the former interim dean of the LSU College of Engineering, in an attempt to get the First Amendment issue against him thrown out.
Constant could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
The court previously denied a motion by LSU on a whistle-blower claim by van Heerden.
Defendants have not moved for summary judgment on a claim by van Heerden that his 14th Amendment rights were violated, so that part of the suit also remains pending.
Van Heerden said late Friday he is pleased.
“We are happy with his ruling and are really looking forward to the trial, which will give a jury and the public a chance to hear what went on,” van Heerden said.
He said he expects the case to go to trial early next year.
“LSU cannot comment on pending litigation,” spokeswoman Kristen Calongne said.