September 26, 2012 14:04 Age: 2 yrs

Professor Nash on Reversal In Katrina Case, Corps Not Liable for Flooding Damage

In 2009, a federal judge ruled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was liable for damages because of negligence in maintaining a shipping channel that plaintiffs said increased storm surge and flooding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed that opinion.

Emory Law Professor Jonathan Nash spoke with National Public Radio’s Kathy Lohr on “Morning Edition” today. The 2009 ruling found fault with the Corps for “scientific errors about the risks of not shoring up levees that protected St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward,” Lohr said. Monday’s ruling found, “the decisions were public policy considerations which are immune from prosecution,” she said.

Asked about the reversal, Nash said: “It’s largely the same opinion. But they sort of say, ‘Well, we’re going to give the government the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re entitled to immunity.’ So the upshot is that the government gets immunity which means that the plaintiffs can’t collect.”

Mark Davis, director of Tulane University Law School’s Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy was also asked for his assessment.

“This is clearly a message that when it comes to liability suits like this, it’s going to be hard to win if this ruling stands,” Davis said.

Related Links:

Listen to the NPR story

Professor Nash’s profile

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