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St. Bernard Parish Government v. United States

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20065
Nos. 2016-2301, -2373, (Fed. Cir., 04/20/2018)

The Federal Circuit held that the U.S. government is not liable for flood damages that property owners in the New Orleans area incurred following Hurricane Katrina. The property owners filed suit under the Tucker Act, alleging that the government's construction and operation of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO), as well as its failure to properly maintain or modify it, constituted a taking by causing flooding damage to their properties. A lower court sided with the property owners and awarded compensation. But the appellate court reversed, holding that the government cannot be liable on a takings theory for inaction. Accordingly, it rejected the owners' claims concerning the government's failure to maintain or modify MRGO. It also held that the owners failed to prove that the government's construction and operation of MRGO was the cause of the flooding. The correct legal standard, which the lower court failed to apply, requires that the causation analysis also account for government flood control projects that reduced the risk of flooding. As such, the owners failed to prove a key legal issue. The court therefore reversed the lower court decision.