Judge: La. Road Home Suit Should Name State as Well as Contractor

July 26, 2007

Sue the state as well as its contractor for Louisiana’s troubled Road Home problem, a federal judge in Baton Rouge, La., told the attorney who filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the contractor is cheating thousands of hurricane victims.

U.S. District Judge James Brady said he was reluctantly dismissing the lawsuit against ICF International of Virginia because the contractor was the only defendant, and because it really should be filed in state court rather than federal court.

“The state and ICF need to get together to get this program working,” Brady said. “Obviously, there is a lot of room for improvement.”

Thomas Casey Jr., a lawyer for ICF, which manages the state-run, federally funded program to help homeowners and owners of rental property rebuild, argued that ICF has no say in how to administer the program. Only the state can change that, Casey said.

“What they’re asking is for Judge Brady to take over the Road Home Program from the state,” Casey said. “How can the state not have an interest in that?”

ICF stands to make $756 million over three years giving out $6.2 billion in federal aid. The program already faces a potential deficit estimated as high as $5 billion.

Robert Couhig Jr., who filed the lawsuit for Donald C. Massey of Metairie, said he is seeking only to have the existing contract enforced.

“Right now there is nothing any citizen can do to ensure that ICF does what it was hired to do,” Couhig said. “Maybe with a judge’s order, they will actually start to answer their phones.”

Massey’s suit asked Brady to appoint a special master to take over the program, and order the company to implement 21 measures aimed at helping homeowners get their money.

After the hearing, Couhig said he plans to file a new lawsuit in Baton Rouge state district court. He would not say whether the state will be a defendant.

Information from: The Advocate, www.theadvocate.com.

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