New Orleans Levee Boards Settle Breach Case For $20 Million

Government units in charge of New Orleans levees that were breached or overtopped during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have agreed to pay $20.8 million to owners of properties damaged by the flooding.

The proposed settlement will be the subject of hearings in April, according to the announcement of U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood. R. Duval Jr. in New Orleans.

According to attorney Rob Warren, with the law firm of Joseph M. Bruno, the number of plaintiffs who are part of the class action is unclear, but 450,000 claims have been filed since the 2005 storms.

The settlement involves cases brought against the Orleans Levee District, the Board of Commissioners of the Orleans Levee District, the Lake Borgne Basin Levee District, the Board of Commissioners of the Lake Borgne Basin Levee District, the East Jefferson Levee District, the Board of Commissioners of the East Jefferson Levee District, their insurer, and all related people.

Other plaintiffs include the Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East and their insurers, and all related people.

Still pending is the major levee case, an action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet navigation channel, which was involved in the flooding, said Mr. Warren. Dismissals of several suits against contactors and engineers that did levee work are under appeal.

The agencies involved in the settlement were alleged to have been responsible for levees that were improperly designed, inspected or maintained, leading to property damage and personal injury.

While settling, the defendants said "the levees failed for reasons beyond their control and they did nothing wrong," according to the announcement.

Property owners in the settlement class include those in the Parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard.

If the settlement is approved, the court said it will appoint an independent "Special Master" to oversee and administer the settlement funds.

The deadline for objections to the settlement is March 13. Both a toll free number (888-287-5893) and Web site (www.LeveeBreachClass.com) have been established for the case.

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