The judge decides on the scope of the flood suit and asks for claims to be submitted.
Judge Nancy Firestone of the US Court of Federal Claims, first nominated by former US President Bill Clinton and nominated again by President Barack Obama, ruled in mid-December 2020 after the US Army Corps of Engineers overhauled its administration of the Missouri River Basin In order to comply with environmental laws, the agency violated the fifth amendment rights of three landowners. Now the government must pay these people to flood their property in order to protect endangered species.
The judge wrote in her ruling: “The government encouraged development along the river and the owners received reasonable assurances that their land would be protected from flooding.” Since 2014, she has monitored a total of 400 crime claims along the river, with the three plaintiffs acted as Bellwether applicants.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys, Dan Boulware of Polsinelli and Benjamin Brown of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, had withheld filing new claims until Judge Firestone clarified which direction the case was going. The judge’s decision effectively set a deadline for claims up to December 31, which was observed. Going forward, they plan to prosecute a fifth amendment class action lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims involving more than 60 plaintiffs who own land in multiple states along the river.
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“This is a big deal,” said Anthony Schutz, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law. “The potential liability could run to hundreds of millions of dollars depending on how many people are involved. This throws a wrench into the adaptability of managing the (flow) to changing needs. “
Boulware said he was awaiting appeal from the government, adding that they had “always been ready to reach a reasonable deal with the government, but to no avail. The government needs to step up and do the right thing. When the class is certified, hundreds of other class members also have the opportunity to file claims. These claims should be valued at at least $ 2,000 per acre based on the judge’s assessment of reports from experts of the plaintiffs in the mass action. “
Brown added they suspect the three lead plaintiffs will each receive at least $ 10,000.
Senators from Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas want the flood dispute to be resolved as soon as possible, and they wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Army saying, “The Corps continues to ignore and express liability for its actions instead, its intent to exhaust all appeals for years to come. We again urge that the Corps put an end to the further delay and complete our voters. It is unacceptable that some of our constituents have waited over 13 years for compensation. “
Boulware said the Justice Department had long defended the measures taken by the government, stating that they were in the best interests of the law and he suspects the agency will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
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