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New Orleans residents scramble to beat deadline for filing claims over Katrina levee failure

Feb 27, 2007 | AP

Residents scrambled to beat a deadline for filing court claims against the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers for damage resulting from the failure of levees following Hurricane Katrina.

The corps says Thursday 1½ years after the storm hit is the deadline for the Katrina litigation claims to be submitted. Roughly 30,000 residents already had filed a claim as of late last week, but Thursday's deadline surprised many others whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed in the flooding following the storm.

On Monday, a steady procession of people stopped by the corps' Leake Avenue office to drop off their claims in person. Charles Brown, 47, said he didn't know about the deadline until Sunday.

“A lot of people aren't going to get their claims in,” said Brown, who has been living in a government-issued trailer since his Gentilly home was damaged by the storm.

Another claimant, Janet Long, 45, used the camera in her cell phone to photograph herself inserting the form in the drop box to prove that she filed a claim on her mother's behalf.

“It's aggravating, but it's worth it,” said Long, whose mother's home in the city's Lakeview neighborhood was flooded.

While many Mississippi homeowners harmed by Katrina are suing their insurers, much of the legal wrangling in Louisiana is over whether flooding from the failed levees was manmade rather than from a natural disaster.

One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, asked a federal judge to consider postponing the filing deadline. The plaintiffs argue that federal officials were reneging on an agreement to let claimants file until Aug. 29, 2007, the two-year anniversary.

“There is much anguish and uncertainty among all Hurricane Katrina victims concerning their rights,” the plantiffs' attorneys wrote. U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval didn't immediately rule on the request.

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