Cases & Deals

Washington Group International prevails in Hurricane Katrina mass tort action

Client(s) Washington Division of URS Corporation

Jones Day successfully defended Washington Group International, Inc. ("WGI," now URS Energy & Construction Company, a subsidiary of URS Corp.) in a mass tort action alleging that WGI's work on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contributed to floodwall breaches in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The plaintiffs sued WGI for billions of dollars in damages in connection with an environmental remediation and site clearing project that WGI performed for the Army Corps along the east bank of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal. The plaintiffs claimed that WGI's work, including the removal of hundreds of abandoned structures and excavating several tons of contaminated soil, undermined the floodwalls adjacent to the east bank of the canal and led to the inundation of the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard's Parish.

On April 12, 2013, after seven years of litigation and three weeks of trial, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana entered judgment for WGI and the United States. WGI presented evidence that the plaintiffs' causation theories were not supported by accepted geotechnical engineering principles, the evidence from the extensive joint field investigation that the parties undertook, or the trial record in the case. The court ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that WGI's work caused the flood wall breaches.

The Jones Day trial team was led by Washington partner Adrian Wager-Zito and associates Debra Clayman, Julia Cronin, Chris Thatch, and Brian Kerwin, along with co-counsel from Stone Pigman Walther Wittman L.L.C.

In re Katrina Canal Breaches Consolidated Litigation, No. 05-4182 (E.D. La.)