Andry Law Group Addresses MRGO Mass Tort Case
Father and son legal duo Gilbert and John Andry successfully sued the United States government and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in a highly necessary case for environmental law, a case about the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO – pronounced “Mr. Go”) and its harmful impact on Louisiana ecological systems.
In a report conducted by Insider Exclusive in 2016, John and Gilbert described “turning square corners” as they took on some federal giants.
The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet was a 76-mile canal constructed to create an Industrial Canal and Intracoastal Waterway in the mid 20th century. Originally, MRGO was supposed to boost the economy by allowing more water freight to travel from the Gulf up the Mississippi River faster. Instead of forcing freight to traverse the winding passage of the Mississippi River, the MRGO was intended to create a simpler path by connecting the river to the gulf. Its engineers dreamed of commerce flowing through eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. The United States Army Corp of Engineers constructed the canal, imagining it to be the new-age Panama Canal with a hefty paycheck increase, too, for the many folks who could take advantage of job opportunities along MRGO – ships, docks, wharves, and more.
Criticism of MRGO
From the beginning planning stages of MRGO, residents worried about the environmental impact the water highway would have on the ecosystem. There were concerns about the introduction of salt water to the natural ecologies as well as the initial destruction of the marshlands many animals, plants, and marine life called home.
These concerns went unheard, and the construction and use began in the 1950s.
MRGO was used for about 50 years until it was officially closed in 2009. It closed because the environmental concerns played true, especially after the destruction from Hurricane Katrina. In fact, after that 2005 disaster, MRGO was nicknamed Hurricane Highway, giving the storm a clear path from the Gulf of Mexico to destroy the interior towns.
Moreover, the biggest environmental problems with MRGO were:
- Saltwater intrusion – many species of animals and plants disappeared or died out because the fresh water was no longer fresh.
- Wetlands erosion – the land through which MRGO was built was marshland, making it more sensitive to erosion as construction invaded the natural ecological system.
- Storm surge pathway – it is suspected that the Katrina storm ravaged more damage through MRGO, giving the hurricane a straight path to New Orleans and potentially causing the levee system too much stress.
Andry Law Group’s Action
Scientists and experts alike came together to stop the ecological destruction caused by MRGO, with goals such as relieving the impacts the channel caused historically; protecting the area from hurricane winds, waves, and storm surges; increasing quality for wildlife and fish habitats; and bringing back the dignity of coastal wetlands from erosion, subsidence, and sea level rise.
“John Andry and Gilbert Andry have earned the highest respect from citizens and lawyers alike as some of the best trial lawyers in New Orleans and Louisiana and in the Nation. They are driven to fight for people who have been harmed by willful and negligent actions of others. Their goal’s not only to get justice for their clients but to make sure that all Americans have the right to justice because ‘… injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Steve Murphy, Insider Exclusive reporter.
Robinson vs. U.S.
Calling on previous case history, the Andry family went right to work after surviving Hurricane Katrina. After pulling together as a community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Andry Law Group learned there were thousands of people ready to sue the Corp because of the destruction. It only took a short while for Andry Law Group to file the Robinson Notice in October 2005.
In an effort to keep the judicial system resources available, it is legally required for law firms to file a notice to an agency that a lawsuit is intended. With tort law jurisdiction, the agency has six months from the date of receipt of the notice to settle the issue before it turns into a mass tort lawsuit.
In April 2006, six months from the day of notice, Andry Law Group filed Norman Robinson vs. the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers; it was six plaintiffs against the Corp in the age-old David vs. Goliath story.
Between working with a judge who held the entire team of lawyers feet to the fire through tough intellectual conversations and the lack of proper maintenance of MRGO throughout the ages, especially during Hurricane Katrina, the Corps was found negligent and malfeasance. Andry Law Group won the case before it went to trial.