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State auditor: Levee board's lawsuit raises legal questions

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East has battled a lot when it comes to the lawsuit the board filed against 97 oil and gas companies earlier this year. Opponents to the suit have included Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, his coastal advisor, Garett Graves and of course, the oil and gas industry. The lawsuit seeks compensation and reparations for damage and injury to the state's coastal areas and wetlands caused by canal dredging and the building of pipelines. Now, the SLFPA-E is facing yet another challenge - a state legislative auditor's report.

The SLFPA-E requested a review of the contract entered into with the attorneys who represent the board in the lawsuit. According to the report, the auditor found "significant legal questions" concerning the contingency fee that would be paid to the attorneys if the case settled or was awarded a monetary judgment in court.

The matter is even more complicated because the Louisiana Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell, approved the contract. The auditor said that there are also questions about a provision commonly known as the "poison pill." This refers to part of the contract that requires the board to pay attorneys' fees and expenses even if the legislature or the board terminates the lawsuit. This "poison pill" provision, according to some, could cause the board not to drop the lawsuit even if it really wanted to simply because of the fees due to the attorneys."

The final recommendation in the auditor's report was that the SLFPA-E's board have a judge rule on the lawsuit. It's not known yet if the board will do so.

Environmental issues often continue unless there is a strong force present to stop the damage. In many cases, legal action may be necessary, such as in this case.

Source: wwltv.com, "Legislative Auditor: 'Significant Legal Questions' In Flood Authority Lawsuit" Paul Murphy, Dec. 13, 2013

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