Hurricane Katrina victims get their day in court beginning today, as a federal judge hears a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers. Tens of thousands of New Orleans residents could win damages, in what lawyers are calling “the last case standing” against the government. “This is sort of the Exxon Valdez litigation of the government liability field,” one professor tells the Los Angeles Times.
The government could be forced to shell out up to $100 billion, the Justice Department estimated last year. The case alleges that a much-maligned navigation channel built by the corps is partially responsible for flooding the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods. It’s not the only reason, but focusing on it has allowed lawyers to skirt a law protecting flood-control measures from lawsuits.