The Wall Street Journal, in its editorial section yesterday, commended Judge Duval for finding the Army Corps of Engineers at fault for the flooding of areas of New Orleans. The editorial, entitled ‘A win for New Orleans,’ celebrates the win as an opportunity for those whose homes flooded to receiving financial settlements to make up for the inability of the Corps to develop and operate adequate water projects.
The lawsuit was brought by seven plaintiffs. Judge Duval ruled against the plaintiffs from New Orleans East but awarded $720,000 to those from St. Bernard and the Lower Ninth.
The judge’s decision could lead to thousands of people joining class actions seeking billions of dollars in damages. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are calling on the federal government to offer a universal settlement with the people of New Orleans. The Obama administration and members of Congress should listen. While there are limits on how much people should expect — the government is strapped for cash, after all — it’s difficult to see what purpose would be served by dragging this case through appeals all the way up to the Supreme Court. Unless the government has a persuasive defense for the negligence decried by Judge Duval, it would be better to settle now.
This is a good sign that the national press is following Gulf Coast issues closely and hopefully people get the results they are looking for in terms of more Corps attention and effort into improving the water systems. Any progress and attention to issues relating to New Orleans and its recovery, though, is positive and hopefully will help lead to those efforts that prevent the devastation of Katrina from occurring again.