Lawsuits Filed in the Wake of Hurricane




Lawsuits Filed in the Wake of Hurricane

Several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of those who have suffered wrongdoing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  This surge of litigation reflects the rising anger and frustration of thousands of business owners and residents who have lost family, friends, property, and jobs as a result of the August 2005 hurricane.  Among these civil lawsuits are claims over insurance settlements, flood damage, wrongful death, personal injury, oil spills, and more. 

Among these lawsuits are claims against insurance companies, which are denying the claims of their policyholders, local government boards that monitored the failed levees, nursing homes, an oil company, and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Local courts, many of which are just now re-opening after this devastating natural disaster, have found there calendars overflowing with claims related to Katrina.  These courts are also struggling to catch up in cases that had to be postponed due to the disaster.  There is another growing concern, however, in the regions affected by this surge in Katrina litigation: gathering enough jurors to hear these cases. 

A shortage of jurors is anticipated due to the diminished populations in these affected areas.  In New Orleans, for example, the population is just one-quarter of what it was in 2004.  Experts worry that a shortage of jurors will be bad news for residents and business owners who risk bankruptcy with unresolved claims against their insurers.   For many survivors, mortgage payments are owed on unlivable homes.  These people see lawsuits as the only way to protect themselves from insurers and government plans to destroy what little they have left. 

A federal class action lawsuit was filed against FEMA in November 2005 on behalf of 250,000 people left homeless by flooding.  FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose substandard response to Katrina provoked national outrage, had sought to evict survivors from temporary housing without recourse.  The residents have won extensions of their housing twice through legal action.   

In addition to legal claims against FEMA, several other groups have been targeted through civil lawsuits.  Murphy Oil USA, Inc. has been named in 19 separate class action lawsuits after an oil tanker at their St. Bernard Parish refinery spilled over one million gallons of crude oil into the community, contaminating over 2,500 homes.

Several oil companies, including Chevron and Shell, have been sued by commercial fishermen’s groups including the United Commercial Fishermen’s Association and the Louisiana Shrimp Association.  These groups allege that the oil companies released nine million gallons of oil during Katrina, destroying the habitat where they once fished. 

Lawsuits have also been filed over levee failures, gulf outlets that aggravated flood damage, and more.  Wrongful death cases have been filed against nursing homes that chose not to evacuate residents. 


 

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