Eight years after Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans in one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes to slam into a U.S. city, a federal judge Dec. 20 dismissed the claims filed by residents and business owners who said the U.S. government had failed to adequately protect the below-sea-level city and should compensate them for lost property and businesses.
U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. dismissed about a dozen lawsuits citing the difficulty to force the government to pay damages. His ruling followed a federal appeals court ruling that overturned Duval’s earlier decision that the government was liable for damages in the wake of the 2005 storm.
Under federal law, the government cannot be sued over actions that were based "on considerations of public policy," the appeals panel wrote. “The corps' decisions regarding the shipping channel fall under that protection,” the appeals court ruled.
In 2009 Duval initially ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for the flooding of the Lower Ninth Ward because the agency failed to properly maintain the channel which allowed protective marshland to wash away.
Rhiana Ryals, 35, of the Carrollton area of New Orleans told the AFRO she and her family lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.
“The only thing I saved was my senior yearbook from college,” said Ryals. “We walked away from it all. Our house was completely flooded, it was horrible.”
Ryals said the hardest part was seeing everything her father worked so hard for—things for their family—was destroyed.
Hurricane Katrina claimed the lives of nearly 1,400 Mississippi and Louisiana residents, thousands of homes were destroyed and a great portion of the city was left under water. More than 500,000 residents, business owners and governments filed lawsuits against the Corps and they wanted the agency to pay.
“It’s disappointing that no one will be held liable for so many lives being lost, so many homes. Obviously there were a lot of mistakes made, but no one is being held accountable.” Ryals told the AFRO.
She said I don’t ever feel like there will ever be any justice done for the people of New Orleans. “We’re looking for someone to be held accountable—just be held responsible. The levees broke because people halved their job. They were supposed to protect us.”