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St. Rita's Owners Sue Government As Grand Jury Considers Criminal Charges Over Katrina Deaths
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 7, 2006

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA--The legal finger pointing is beginning in earnest over the deaths of dozens of residents and staff members of St. Rita's Nursing Home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The first grand jury to be seated since the hurricane hit the New Orleans area a year ago will meet beginning September 20 to hear a number of criminal cases. The panel will decide whether the facility's owners, Salvador and Mable Mangano, should face negligent homicide charges in the drowning deaths of 35 residents.

The Manganos have been accused of failing to evacuate the residents, most of whom died in wheelchairs or their beds, even though they had opportunities to do so before Katrina struck. The couple also faces 51 separate personal injury and wrongful death suits filed by family members of those who died at St. Rita's.

Last week, the Manganos launched their own preemptive strike of sorts, suing a long list of federal, state and local agencies and officials. The couple accuses the governmental authorities of failing to make sure the facility's residents were evacuated. They also name the Army Corps of Engineers, which built the levees that failed after Katrina passed.

The Manganos' attorney, James Cobb, has said his clients reasoned before the storm that evacuating some medically fragile residents would have put them at more risk than "sheltering in place". They also believed St. Rita's was not in danger of flooding because it is located in a section of New Orleans that is 12 feet above sea level. They could not have predicted that the levees would break, leaving a 13-foot wall of water to engulf the facility, he said.

"We've been there for 20 years of storms in this area," Cobb said Tuesday. "We never lost a resident. We never evacuated once."

"The difference is . . . the levees failed."

The Manganos' suit also names Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr.

Entire article:
Nursing home operators fight back (Times- Picayune)

Grand jury looks at Katrina deaths (USA Today)
People With Disabilities Among Hardest Hit By Hurricanes Katrina & Rita (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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