La. Judge Won’t Remove Broussard, Jeff Parish from Flood Lawsuit

March 7, 2008

A state judge in Louisiana has refused to remove Jefferson Parish and its president from a lawsuit filed by parish residents over flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina.

At issue in the lawsuit is the decision to evacuate pump station operators before the storm hit in August 2005.

In January, defense attorneys argued that Parish President Aaron Broussard, the parish and its drainage districts should be removed from the suit. They offered a two-page affidavit from Broussard in which he said he had no knowledge of or responsibility for evacuating pump station operators just before the storm hit.

Judge John Peytavin denied the request, writing in his published reasons that he could not remove Broussard from the suit when questions of fact remain. He highlighted Broussard’s Nov. 28 deposition, during which plaintiffs’ attorney Darleen Jacobs repeatedly asked the parish president who gave the evacuation orders and who knew about the “doomsday plan” calling for such a retreat.

“These questions all went unanswered in the deposition and might be considered genuine issues of material fact,” Peytavin wrote.

Peytavin issued a separate judgment denying a defense request to dismiss the parish and its consolidated drainage district from liability because state law gives political subdivisions immunity from damage resulting from their actions to prepare for or respond to disasters. The judge gave weight to the plaintiffs’ argument that parish attorneys failed to prove that all issues of fact were uncontested.

In a third ruling issued March 6, Peytavin denied American Alternative Insurance Corp.’s request to be dropped from the case. An attorney for the company argued in January that the parish voided its $4 million policy when it sent drainage workers to Washington Parish and left the pump stations unmanned during and after the storm.

Again, Peytavin wrote that the defendant did not support the summary judgment motion with sufficient evidence.

Peytavin did hand a victory to one insurer that wanted out of the lawsuit, National Union Fire Insurance Co. He wrote that the insurer gave adequate proof that a plaintiff’s claims fell within exclusion clauses of the $1 million policy.

Information from: The Times-Picayune,

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