By Perry Cooper
Hurricane Katrina flood victims alleging state and local government negligently maintained flood walls in Louisiana can’t sue as a class, a state appeals court affirmed Dec. 27.
The evidence presented shows that the failure of flood walls on two canals was “caused by different conduct by multiple actors, occurring at different times,” Judge Jude G. Gravois wrote for the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fifth Circuit.
Such a lack of common facts defeats class certification, the court said.
Suits against the government over flooding from Katrina have been largely unsuccessful. The 2005 storm devastated New Orleans and coastal Mississippi in 2005.
Residents and business owners sued the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the Parish of Orleans Sewerage and Water Board. They alleged the government’s negligent design and construction of flood walls caused them to collapse after Katrina and damage their properties.
The district court denied class certification, and the appeals court affirmed.
“A myriad of property-specific facts” makes it “difficult if not impossible to quantify each actor’s contribution to the flooding at any particular property,” the court said.
Judges Robert A. Chaisson and Hans J. Liljeberg joined the opinion.
Jacobs, Sarrat, Lovelace & Harris and Richard M. Martin Jr. in New Orleans represented the residents.
The Louisiana attorney general and Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith represented the state. Christovich and Kearney LLP represented the sewer board.
The case is Harvey v. Bd. of Comm’rs , 2017 BL 463143, La. Ct. App., 5th Cir., No. 17-CA-271, 12/27/17 .
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