Jefferson Parish Assessor Tom Capella is expected to be on the witness stand Monday morning, as the second week begins in the class-action lawsuit against the local government and its former president, Aaron Broussard, over Hurricane Katrina flooding. Capella will be grilled on his knowledge of the now-defunct "doomsday plan" that led the Broussard administration to evacuate about 200 drainage pump operators to Washington Parish hours before Katrina's landfall.
Capella was a member of the Jefferson Parish Council during Katrina. On Friday, Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse was the first live witness in the trial, and he testified he knew nothing of the pump operator evacuation. The jury that was selected last week also saw a video recording of a deposition Broussard gave in 2007, in which he denied ordering the evacuation and indicated he knew nothing about the doomsday plan, which was a component of the parish's emergency operations plan.
Attorneys representing residential and business property owners who suffered losses during Katrina filed suit against Broussard and the parish, accusing it of willful misconduct. If the jury finds the parish is liable, the attorneys will seek monetary damages.
The parish's attorneys have argued the Jefferson government is immune from liability and say there was no misconduct. Like it or not, the parish had a plan for storms and followed it, the attorneys say.
The trial could last as long as three weeks. Judge John Peytavin, a retired jurist from Lutcher, is presiding. The Louisiana Supreme Court appointed him to the case after the 24th Judicial District Court's 16 judges recused themselves.