Attorney files 31 lawsuits against state, shippers

Published 7:02 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A south Mississippi attorney has filed 31 civil lawsuits for clients who claim that unsecured equipment at the port in Gulfport destroyed their property during Hurricane Katrina.

The suits join four others filed earlier this year by attorney Jim Davis.

Each of the lawsuits seeks more than $1 million in damages. All claim the government agencies and businesses named were negligent for failing to secure cargo in preparation for Katrina, which hit on Aug. 29, 2005. The lawsuits also say officials failed to learn lessons from Hurricane Camille in 1969.

“Most of my clients lost their homes and are now displaced,” Davis said. “I also represent four or five businesses.”

Defendants include the Gulfport port, the state port authority, the Mississippi Development Authority, Turbana Corp., Chiquita Fresh North America LLC, Dole Food Co. Inc., Crowley American Transport Inc., Crowley Line Services Inc. and SSA Marine Inc.

Katrina’s storm surge pushed lumber, animal carcasses, metal shipping containers and 2,000-pound rolls of paper from the state port north and west, Davis said.

Charlotte Williams, a Long Beach resident who filed a lawsuit earlier this year, said a Katrina-propelled shipping container pushed her home 30 feet north and then became embedded in its frame.

Defense attorneys in the first four cases have filed motions to move the cases to federal court. Davis said he has countered with motions to keep the cases in Harrison County Circuit Court.

“Once we resolve the issue of where the first four cases will be tried, we can move forward with the other cases,” Davis said.

Other attorneys are working on similar claims and Davis said he expects other lawsuits to be filed soon.