One of Goodwin’s clients operated the barge, which broke loose from the company’s cement terminal on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal during the storm. Blaming the breakaway barge for causing the break in the floodwall, plaintiffs sought class certification and alleged an astonishing $100 billion in damages.
Goodwin’s lawyers acted quickly, persuading the court to deny the plaintiffs class certification. During trial, Goodwin attorneys deployed a host of meteorologists, experts and eyewitnesses on the stand. Their testimonies showed that the wind direction during Katrina would have made it impossible for the barge to travel as plaintiffs claimed, let alone strike the wall with enough force to breach the floodwall.
Goodwin attorneys argued that the winds would have driven the barge toward the west side of the canal at the time of the canal breach. The breaches opened up on the east side of the canal. The judge agreed and said there was ample evidence that the floodwalls gave way due to poor design and the severity of the storm. After trying a series of individual claims to verdict in a three-week federal bench trial, the judge stated “simply put, the Barge did not do it.” Goodwin obtained an award of summary judgment in the client’s favor on hundreds of other individual claims.