Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"The Mother of all High Numbers"

As early as mid-September, 2005, I spoke with a legal aide of a prominent attorney. Only minutes before we spoke, we both had met a refugee from New Orleans, who had come to the McAlester, Ok. area to escape the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. This refugee had not chosen McAlester: This was where she and her boyfriend were when they had a very serious wreck on their motorcycle. The boyfriend had been life-flighted to Tulsa, where his foot had to be amputated because of their wreck.

Now, this gal was in the Choctaw Casino, hoping to find solace in an electronic game.

My legal aide friend and I shook our heads, while saying, "This Hurricane Katrina will end up being the biggest bonanza these people ever knew."
Today, word comes just how big Katrina's victims are hoping that bonanza will be:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Katrina's victims have put a price tag on their suffering and it is staggering — including one plaintiff seeking the unlikely sum of $3 quadrillion.

A whopping $3,014,170,389,176,410 is the dollar figure so far sought from some of the largest claims filed against the federal government over damage from the failure of levees and flood walls following the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

Of roughly 489,000 total claims, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it has received 247 for at least $1 billion apiece, including the one for $3 quadrillion.

"That's the mother of all high numbers," said Loren Scott, a Baton Rouge-based economist.
For the sake of perspective: A stack of one quadrillion pennies would reach Saturn. (But if my math is correct, that is only a mere $30 Trillion.)

Three quadrillion dollars worth of pennies stacked would probably reach to the Pearly Gates.

Some residents "may have grossly exaggerated their claims" to send a message to the corps, which has accepted blame for poorly designing the failed levees. NO, you don't say...?

"There's no way on earth you can figure it out," one attorney, whose clients filed over 60,000 claims, said. "The trauma these people have undergone is unlike anything that has occurred in the history of our country."

There are 247 claims of at least $1 billion, including a $77 billion claim by the city of New Orleans. Fourteen involve a wrongful death claim. Fifteen were filed by businesses, including several insurance companies.

Little is known about the person who claimed $3 quadrillion. It was filed in Baker, Louisiana, 93 miles northwest of New Orleans. Baker is far from the epicenter of Katrina's destruction, but the city has a trailer park where hundreds of evacuees have lived since the storm.

I am willing to wager that the $3 quadrillion claimant from Baker would settle his lawsuit for new tires for his home and a case of beer. And the city of NOLA can focus it's anger at Mayor Nagin and former Governor Kathleen "Marie Antoinette" Blanco, for keeping those school buses idle and the assembled National Guard at bay in Shreveport, and since New Orleans had years of opportunity to make adequate evacuation plans to help the people of New Orleans safely evacuate in case of a Category 3 hurricane.

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