Attorneys in Katrina flooding case still weighing options - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Attorneys in Katrina flooding case still weighing options


NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Attorneys for Jefferson Parish's Hurricane Katrina flooding victims are weighing their next move after the verdict rendered by a jury in Gretna Wednesday night.

The jury returned a mixed verdict after weeks of testimony. The plaintiffs had blamed the parish for the floodwaters because of the so-called "doomsday" plan that went into effect just hours before Katrina made landfall.

No one can deny that floodwaters from Katrina invaded homes and businesses in Jefferson Parish, and now attorneys representing 40,000 flood victims have a lot to ponder.

"Yes, we thought they may have been hung, or divided in their opinion," said Ken Charbonnet, one of eight attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

After nearly eight hours of deliberation, jurors found that the parish was liable for its handling of the doomsday plan. The plan called for the evacuation of parish drainage pump operators when a Category 4 or 5 hurricane was forecast to hit the area.

While the jury decided the parish was negligent in relation to the plan, it did not fault the parish for the actual flooding, and therefore the case did not move to the next phase involving financial damages.

"It takes a huge burden off the taxpayers of Jefferson Parish and it closes hopefully the last chapter from Katrina," said Jefferson Parish President John Young.

"We were very happy that the jury found that it wasn't an act of God, that they found negligence," said Charbonnet. "After that, it gets confusing for us."

Since Katrina, the doomsday plan has been scrapped and safe houses have been built for drainage pump operators. In the future, they will not be evacuated when a storm approaches.

"There's front-end protection on the pump stations, the pump stations have been fortified," Young said.

"We're regrouping and we're studying our situation, and actually an appeal is being considered and some other things are also," said Charbonnet. "The thing that really surprised me is that they didn't find causation, and we were given a gift as evidence. We had the report, which showed the scenario that if the pumps had been on, 80 percent of the parish that flooded would not have flooded."

The jury also cleared former Parish President Aaron Broussard of "willful misconduct" as alleged in the lawsuit.

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