It means that New Orleans residents may be able to claim damages from the Army Corps of Engineers related to Katrina effects. On November 18, 2009, a US District Court awarded seven plaintiffs a total of $720,000 for damages incurred in Hurricane Katrina, finding that the Army Corps of Engineers was negligent in maintaining the Gulf Outlet at the end of the Mississippi River. However, the ruling was not a blanket one for the plaintiffs. The Corps was not liable, the judge found, for flooding in parts of eastern New Orleans. Nonetheless, this is the first time the Army Corps of Engineers has been held liable for damages in a natural disaster that it’s had a hand in. The precedent of the case means it’s possible for others with similar damages to go forward. It’s not over by any means, though: the November ruling is currently on appeal and may take some time to wind its way through the court process, and many other potential plaintiffs are waiting in the wings to see where it goes.
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