Michelle Keahey Nov. 27, 2013, 11:09am

NEW ORLEANS - Two Belle Rose home owners have filed a lawsuit over the mandatory evacuation from their home due to a sinkhole formed from a salt cavern.

Nolan J. Benoit Jr. and Elizabeth Talbot Benoit filed suit against Texas Brine Co., Occidental Chemical Corp., and Miller Engineers & Associates Inc. on July 30 in Assumption Parish District Court. The defendants removed the case to federal court in New Orleans on Nov. 14.

The petitioners own a home located in the Militus Babin Subdivision in Belle Rose.  They state a sinkhole developed on Aug. 3, 2012, which has dispossessed petitioners from their home. On the same day, the State of Louisiana declared a state of emergency relating to the danger of the sinkhole and ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Bayou Corne community.

The defendants are accused of negligence for failing to properly design, inspect, and maintain the cavern, failing to properly conduct and/or manage the mining of the salt cavern, and failing to ensure that the walls of the salt cavern were maintained at a safe distance from the outer boundary of the Napoleonville salt dome.

The defendants are also accused of negligence for mining too close to the outer boundary of the Napoleonville salt dome, conducting brine mining operations without due regard to the structural integrity of the cavern and the salt dome, failing to take timely and appropriate actions to contain the size and reduce the impact of the sinkhole once it began to develop, and for failing to take reasonable remedial measures to prevent the collapse of the cavern after obtaining knowledge that the brine product well and/or cavern had failed a mechanical integrity test.

The lawsuit is seeking an award of damages for medical bills, loss/damage to their home, damages for physical, mental, emotional injuries, intentional infliction of emotional distress, loss of intellectual gratification, loss of wages, loss of earning capacity,

The plaintiffs are represented by Jerald P. Block and Kendall J. Krielow of Block Law Firm, APLC in Thibodaux.

U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:13-cv-06412

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