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Katrina claims and sovereign immunity

While the continuing saga of Katrina insurance litigation provides this site with no shortage of grist for commentary, it's worth remembering that even bigger chapters in courtroom conflict might lie ahead, as the courts take up flood claims directed against the U.S. government. How vast are these claims, and the concomitant exposure of federal taxpayers? According to the Washington Post last month:

After a massive deadline filing rush recently that is still being sorted through, the United States is facing legal claims from more than 250,000 people here demanding compensation because, they allege, the Corps negligently designed the waterworks that permeate the city. ...

...officials said the damage claimed against the Corps exceeds $278 billion, an amount that dwarfs even the estimated $125 billion that the federal government has put up for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.

Of course there's a good chance that courts will put an end to these claims by applying longstanding doctrines of sovereign immunity, despite the best efforts of trial lawyers to manage an end run around those doctrines. It would be interesting to ask the various presidential candidates whether they agree that the Department of Justice should defend the sovereign immunity principle with all due vigor against these claims, both in the financial interests of taxpayers nationwide and in the interest of preserving the federal government's own future policymaking latitude on engineering decisions and many other matters.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.