After the (Hurricane) Party - Sept 14, 2012

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Written by Administrator
Thursday, 13 September 2012 00:00

OK. So the Atlantic hurricane season does not officially end until November 30, 2012. A little more than one month left to go. If we're lucky, Isaac will be the only tropical troublemaker for this season, and we Louisianians can prepare to settle down to our "slow" time of year...at least with regard to natural disasters along the Gulf Coast.

But even with evacuation worries almost behind us, there's no time like the present for doing a post mortem on what went right and what went wrong this hurricane season. We can only hope this is being done by our leaders down at city hall and the state capital.

From my view, the number-one question I hear after a natural disaster like Isaac is, Who (if anyone) is responsible for the damages?

On first glance, it may seem that no one should be held accountable for damages resulting from a natural disaster, but in reality, it's much more complex than that. Just because the primary cause is defined as an Act of God (floods, hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards, etc.), it does not necessarily follow that there can be no negligence or liability involved.

For instance, after Hurricane Katrina, there were countless personal injury lawsuits filed against public officials, the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and hospitals and nursing homes because of the many arguments that the extensive flooding was due to man-made negligence, rather than a Force Majuere. (A Force Majeure is generally intended to include risks beyond the reasonable control of a party, incurred not as a product or result of the negligence or malfeasance of a party.)

More recently, in the case of Isaac, most New Orleans neighborhoods suffered power outages that were still unresolved several days after the hurricane had passed over the city. This was not just an inconvenience, but a hazzard, since power lines were left strewn on the ground. In my own neighborhood, this occurred, and a fallen power pole was still lying in the middle of the street more than five days later. Finally, after two days of traveling around this risk, a neighbor fabricated a makeshift barrier to warn people to keep their distance. Luckily, no one was injured (to my knowledge), but the incident raises certain questions: Whose responsibility was it to place an adequate warning about the downed power line? And how soon should it have been done? In similar cases, but where an injury or financial loss actually occurs, an experienced personal injury attorney should be consulted to examine local, state and federal laws. He will be able to weigh the issue of third-party liability for a potential lawsuit.

We all know that dealing with hurricane clean-up is a massive operation, and, quite frankly, you never know what you have until they've come and gone. Fortunately, the federal government has decided the city could use a helping hand and will be giving us $27.3 million in grants to help cover some of the clean-up costs related to Isaac. AP News reported, "Some of the money will reimburse the city for labor and equipment for a variety of emergency protective measures including police patrols and operation of major drainage systems and pumps. Other costs reimbursed will include debris removal and cleaning of mud, silt and sand from street drainage catch basins."

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 January 2013 14:01 )