A New Orleans judge has awarded five Uptown residents a total of a half-million dollars for damage to their homes caused by construction work on the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project.
The ruling, by Civil District Court Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott, is the first judgment in a long-running case involving hundreds of plaintiffs who sued the Sewerage & Water Board, saying it should pay millions of dollars for damage to their homes caused mainly by vibrations created by the construction activity.
The flood control project, commonly referred to as SELA, is a massive undertaking aimed at improving drainage throughout the New Orleans area. The work Uptown included years of construction along several major thoroughfares.
A trial was held in March on the claims made by the five homeowners. Though they are just a small fraction of the nearly 300 plaintiffs involved in the case, this week's ruling could be a major turning point in a suit that has gone on for three years.
The ruling, which was signed Wednesday, agrees that damage to the homes was caused by the SELA construction and says the S&WB is responsible for paying $518,000 for repairs and penalties for “loss of use and enjoyment” of the properties.
That precedent could mean the claims brought by the remaining plaintiffs can be resolved more quickly, as they will likely be focused only on exactly what damage was caused, not whether there was damage for which the water board is responsible, said Mike Whitaker, an attorney representing the homeowners.
“We’re very excited, very thrilled. We worked very, very hard against a defendant insistent on stonewalling us at every turn, and I’m thrilled for our homeowners,” Whitaker said.
It is not clear whether the S&WB will appeal the ruling.
“We are reviewing our options in light of the judgment and can’t comment at this time,” S&WB spokesman Rich Rainey said.
While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for the SELA project, the S&WB is responsible for damage claims under the terms of its agreement with the federal agency.
The plaintiffs will each receive between about $65,000 and $164,000, depending on the amount of damage to their homes and how long the nearby construction lasted, Ervin-Knott decided.
The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board has agreed to pay five Uptown stores a total of $…
The ruling comes more than two months after five businesses settled claims against the S&WB for more than $2 million in a separate case related to damage from the SELA work.