NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court ruling has added a new twist to a complicated legal property rights case along a canal that was breached during Hurricane Katrina, contributing to the floods over most of New Orleans.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has knocked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers out of the lawsuit over access and damage to backyards along one side of the 17th Street Canal.

The court ruled that any federal liability depends on the Orleans Levee District’s claim that it has a legal right to the levee and a 6-foot space adjacent to it.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier Jr. must now decide whether remaining claims against the levee district should be returned to state court, since the only federal defendant has been removed.

Barbier ruled in 2011 that there was too little evidence to support the corps’ and levee district’s contention that they hold a right of way along the levee’s entire footprint.

The corps was added as a defendant in state court, after the landowners challenged the levee district’s decision to let the corps mix cement with soil to strengthen it as it rebuilt part of the canal floodwall.