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Denial of Class Certification for Katrina Levee Failures Affirmed on Appeal

Tim Hassinger and Kelsey Bonnaffons of our Mandeville office represented the State of Louisiana in defeating attempts to certify a class for what the Trial Court described as “the largest natural disaster in the history of our country.”  Following Hurricane Katrina, the Plaintiffs filed suit in state court to certify a class of all residents, domiciliaries, property owners, and business owners whose properties and businesses were damaged by flooding caused by the failure of the 17th Street Canal and London Avenue Canal hurricane protection levees and floodwalls.  The Plaintiffs estimated that the proposed class encompassed over 200,000 properties with some estimates of property damage at over $20 billion.

At trial of the class certification phase of the case in Orleans Parish, the Court held that the Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of establishing the required class certification criteria, including commonality, predominance, and superiority.  After granting the Defendants’ Daubert challenge to the Plaintiffs’ final witness, a proposed expert geotechnical engineer, the Court granted judgment in favor of the Defendants and denied class certification.  On appeal, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding no errors in the Trial Court’s judgment denying class certification.  Laurendine v. Bd. of Comm’rs for the Orleans Levee District, 2017 La. App. LEXIS 2450.  The Plaintiffs’ Writ Application to the Supreme Court of Louisiana has been denied as well.  2018-C-0148 (La. 03/23/18).