Owners of Nursing Home Where 34 Patients Died During Katrina File Lawsuit

Two nursing home owners who were arrested after 34 patients died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are suing federal, state and local government officials, saying they failed to evacuate vulnerable citizens as the storm approached.

An attorney for Salvador and Mabel Mangano said Tuesday that the lawsuit was filed last week, just before the anniversary of the storm.

The Manganos own St. Rita's nursing home in St. Bernard Parish, a coastal suburb of New Orleans badly flooded by Katrina.

Louisiana's attorney general had them booked for negligent homicide last fall after investigating the deaths at St. Rita's, but they were not formally charged by a grand jury. No grand jury has been convened because damage to St. Bernard Parish government buildings and the displacement of the parish's residents have hobbled the court system, the attorney general's office said.

Attorney James Cobb said any liability in the deaths should be shared by governing agencies that failed to make appropriate evacuation preparations before the storm.

"Gov. (Kathleen) Blanco had an obligation to make sure the state was in compliance with its own emergency operations plan," Cobb said.

Cobb said any case should be one of civil liability and not criminal negligence.