O’Donnell Wins Massive Hurricane Liability Ruling

Los Angeles trial lawyer Pierce O’Donnell has pulled off a mammoth ruling against the Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of residents of New Orleans whose homes were damaged and destroyed when the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet channel was overwhelmed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/19/us/19orleans.html?_r=1&hpw and http://www.nola.com/hurricane/index.ssf/2009/11/post_16.html

The ruling is the first holding the government liable for any of the flooding that occurred after Hurricane Katrina.

The decision, which itself applies to just six residents of St. Bernard Parish and the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, portends billions of dollars in liability against the government. There are already more than half-a- million Hurricane Katrina related claims pending against the government, and damages could tally $500 billion, according to one report.

Federal Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. http://www.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=669 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanwood_Duval issued a blistering ruling against the Corps, finding its negligence in maintaining the Canal was not policy but “insouciance, myopia and shortsightedness.” The Judge had earlier declined to find the Corps liable for construction of the Canal, so the battle was over liability for its maintenance.

O’Donnell is a fascinating and brilliant L.A.-based trial lawyer http://www.pierceodonnell.com/ who has pulled off a string of astounding victories, representing Art Buchwald against Paramount Pictures  in the Coming to America case and playing a key role securing $1.9 billion from Sempra and $1.7 billion from El Paso National Gas in the California Energy Litigation. The victory is an amazing comeback for O’Donnell, who had been investigated in L.A. for campaign finance violations and cleared earlier this year.

A Lawdragon 500 member (as is Judge Duval), O’Donnell is noted for his intellectual firepower, which allowed him to surmount the government’s protection from litigation over flood control projects. O’Donnell convinced Duval the MR-GO channel was a navigation channel, opening the Corps to liability. He is part of a group of the top plaintiff’s lawyers from New Orleans and the nation who have formed the Katrina Justice Litigation Group http://katrinajustice.com/.

New Orleans standout Joe Bruno http://www.jbrunolaw.com/ worked with O’Donnell in securing the victory, which awards $719,000 to the six plaintiffs.

Here are links to the court’s order http://www.osdbx.com/Katrina/PDF/Trial_Order.pdf, as well as the complaint http://www.osdbx.com/Katrina/PDF/D_Complaint.pdf and injunction complaint http://www.osdbx.com/Katrina/PDF/I_Complaint.pdf. O

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