Lawsuit alleges that I-12 expressway may have contributed to flood damage

By John Myers | Feb 8, 2017

LIVINGSTON — A storm of controversy is surrounding the role a Louisiana expressway median may have played in the damage caused by 2016 flooding,

On Jan. 5, according to a report by the Times-Picayune, two residents from Denham and Walker filed a lawsuit against the state government and the Department of Transportation alleging that both entities are responsible for some of the damage caused to the area. The plaintiffs are arguing that a 19-mile-long median along the Interstate 12 expressway created a flood wall that trapped water and expanded the damage caused by the flooding. The barrier was originally designed to prevent head-on crashes in one of the most heavily trafficked stretches of road in the state.

Josh Palmintier of DeGravelles Palmintier law firm and the lead attorney in the lawsuit told the Times-Picayune that he is seeking to use his claim against the state to have the Department of Transportation eliminate all of the concrete walls or solve the problems caused by the water flow through the barrier that leads into the East Baton Rouge and Livingston areas. However, the plaintiffs have not attached a dollar amount to their claims.

Palmintier also told the Times-Picayune that the goal is to fix the problems created by private contractors whom he alleges are responsible for the problems caused by the wall, and that he is optimistic that if the process is started soon it can be resolved before the next hurricane season.

Palmintier is not the only person who has demanded changes to the stretch of road. The expressway has been the target of criticism from officials in local government, as well.

According to the Times-Picayune report, former Walker Mayor Rick Ramsey has blamed the median for almost all of the flooding in Walker. And Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry has said that without a change to the median wall, the next flood might completely destroy the city.

Brad Myers, a partner at Louisiana-based firm Kean Miller LLP, said that the plaintiffs will have to prove the violations were made at the state level.

“I can't speak to the I-12 median specifically, but in any municipal lawsuit it is going to be hard for the plaintiffs to prove that any conduct committed by the state of Louisiana contributed to the damage from the 2016 flooding,” Myers told the the Louisiana Record. “The plaintiffs will have to show that the state did something that violated standard practices. However, suing state governments is not typically more challenging than suing private organizations under similar circumstances.”

Myers said that in many municipal lawsuits, it is often easier to convince a judge to accept the complaint if the plaintiffs are local to the area and seeking to force the defendants to fix the problem in question rather than if they are seeking monetary compensation as damages.

Myers also said that the plaintiffs will need to demonstrate that the state somehow violated existing rules and norms in the procedures they used to create the problem that caused the complaint.

“The question they will have to answer to prove their case is, did the defendant do anything that was violation of standard practice?” he said. “Or was there any way they could have known what would come about because of the decisions they made?”

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