A big step in the right direction came for the City of Walker, and all those entities involved in the Class Action lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, DOTD, and the contractors that worked on the Geaux Wider project.
On Wednesday, June 3, 19th District Judicial Judge Chip Moore ruled on seven motions and exceptions that had been pending in the litigation regarding the 2016 flooding in and around the City of Walker against the design-build contractors hired by DOTD and private contractors.
Judge Moore’s rulings were all in favor of those affected by the flood.
The lawsuit states that the 19-mile-long concrete median barrier on Interstate 12 from East Baton Rouge to Livingston Parish, which was built as part of the Geaux Wider construction project, acted as a man-made flood wall, or dam, that interrupted the natural flow of surface waters, causing widespread destruction that would not have occurred if the wall had been properly built with access for water to pass through.
“The Court’s ruling speaks for itself. We have argued from the start of this litigation that the defendants were negligent in the design and construction of this median barrier wall, and based on these rulings, the Court has listened. These victories get us a step closer to obtaining justice for the people of this region,” said Joshua M. Palmintier of deGravelles and Palmintier, one of the attorneys representing the Class Members.
Walker Mayor Jimmy Watson said that he and city attorney Robert 'Bobby' King would be sitting down later Thursday afternoon to discuss the results and possible next steps.
The defendants will have chance to bring the case to appellate court.
"This is a big step for us, a big win," Mayor Watson said, "I'm just glad it went that way.
"We already have a storm in the Gulf," Watson added, referencing Tropical Depression Cristobal, "so we're just hoping no storms come through and causes a problem before we can get (this barrier situation) fixed."
The following are statements from the Ruling on Motions and Exceptions:
“It is clear that the placement of a solid concrete median barrier prevented the natural flow of flood water and artificially raised the level of the flood.” Ruling on Motions and Exceptions, p. 9.
“The [Defendants] should have known that the barrier wall it designed and constructed … would obstruct and impede the natural drain of flood waters. Had [Defendants] followed the Hydraulic Manual used by the DOTD, as it was required, a design respecting the natural drain would have been implemented.” Ruling on Motions and Exceptions, p. 5.
“The design and placement of the barrier by Defendants which, through negligence, failed to contemplate or consider past flooding events or how a solid barrier would affect future flooding events, was not a “necessary consequence” of the public project.” Ruling on Motions and Exceptions, p. 9.