Jefferson Parish found negligent in flood case
GRETNA (AP) — A jury late Wednesday found Jefferson Parish government negligent in the way it drafted and enacted a plan that evacuated drainage pump operators on the eve of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, but ruled the parish was not responsible for subsequent flooding and that former parish President Aaron Broussard’s actions did not rise to the level of willful misconduct.
The complex class-action civil verdict in favor of the parish and against 40,000 home and business owners came after 7½ hours of deliberation. The jury ruled that the flooding in Jefferson Parish was not an act of God and that the parish was negligent in evacuating pump workers, but that the negligence did not cause the flooding, leaving the parish not liable.
They also ruled that Broussard and parish employees did not act willfully or recklessly when implementing the “doomsday” plan that involved the drainage operators’ evacuation.
The parish has argued that the pump workers were evacuated for their own safety, and the homes would have flooded anyway because the pumps would not have been able to handle the amount of rainfall and surge in Katrina.
Plaintiff’s attorneys disagree.
“If it wasn’t caused by an act of God, and they were negligent with the Doomsday Plan, what caused the flooding? And I don’t think the jury answered that. So that’s what we’re going to have to find out, and it may be that a higher court is going to have to answer that question,” plaintiffs’ attorney Darlene Jacobs said.
Jacobs said she and other plaintiff’s attorneys are looking into whether they’ll file an appeal.
The New Orleans Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1ityrrv) state District Judge John Peytavin instructed jurors just after lunch Wednesday that nine of the 12 jurors would have to agree that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, the parish was negligent in enacting the “doomsday plan” and, in Broussard’s case, that he acted with willful misconduct.