A decade-old lawsuit seeking damages from the U.S. government over flooding from Hurricane Katrina and other storms is moving closer to resolution, and a judge's latest filing indicates that at least some damages will be ordered.
Judge Susan Braden of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington said in a document filed Wednesday that she will issue an order on liability in the case by May 4. She didn't say what her decision will be but set a May 6 settlement conference in New Orleans to discuss "a potential resolution of the damages in this case."
The 2005 lawsuit focuses on the now-closed Mississippi River Gulf Outlet — a federally built navigation canal blamed by many for flooding in St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward.
A lead attorney for plaintiffs in the case wouldn't speculate on what Braden's ruling will be.
"We'll certainly study it closely. We're hopeful it will be a positive result," lawyer Carlos Zelaya said.
Zelaya said there have been two phases of trials in the suit dealing with liability and damages. Braden has not issued a ruling on either. The plaintiffs — the government of St. Bernard Parish and more than a dozen other property owners — also are seeking class action status on behalf of all property owners affected by the flooding in St. Bernard and the Lower 9th Ward.
The suit says the construction, dredging and operation of the navigation canal, known in south Louisiana as "Mister Go," contributed to conditions that led to catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Hurricane Rita weeks later and other storms. In effect, the suit argued, the damage caused by the flooding was an illegal "taking" of private property by the federal government without adequate compensation.
The MRGO was authorized by Congress in 1956, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and closed in the years after Katrina.
Numerous other lawsuits filed against the federal government over Katrina-related flooding have failed.
A string of court rulings insulated the federal government from liability for billions of dollars in flood damage that many residents and business owners have blamed on the Corps' design, construction and maintenance of levees and floodwalls