Document Type

Symposia Article


On the evening of October 29, 2012, “Hurricane” Sandy made land- fall on the New York coastline, battering the land with strong winds, torrential rain, and record-breaking storm surges. Homes and commercial structures were destroyed; roads and tunnels were flooded; and more than 23,000 people sought refuge in temporary shelters, with many others facing weeks without power and electricity. At the time, Sandy was heralded as one of the costliest hurricanes in the his- tory of the United States; the second costliest hurricane only to Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005. Unfortunately, recent experience with Hurricanes Florence, Maria, Harvey, and Irma suggest that this pattern of devastating superstorms may become the new norm as climate change produces more extreme and unpredictable weather events.

In Sandy’s aftermath, as individuals returned to their homes, or what remained of them, and communities began to rebuild, the true cost of the storm became apparent. A year after the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) estimated that over $1.4 billion in assistance was provided to 182,000 survivors of the dis- aster; another $3.2 billion was provided to state and local governments for debris removal, infrastructure repair, and emergency protective measures. More than $2.4 billion was provided to individuals and businesses in the form of low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration (“SBA”), and millions more were spent on grants de- signed to implement mitigation measures in the future and to provide unemployment assistance to survivors.

Before the storm, homeowners paid premiums for flood insurance provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”), and for homeowner’s insurance provided by dozens of private insurers. In the months following the storm, they began to file claims for assistance in rebuilding their homes. While many such claims were re- solved successfully, many homeowners were unhappy with the settlement amounts offered by their insurance carriers and felt compelled to file lawsuits in the surrounding state and federal courts. Many of those lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (“EDNY”). This case study describes the EDNY’s specifically crafted, unique approach to handling the mass litigation that ensued from Sandy’s devastation, documents some of the problems that the Court faced during that mass litigation, and describes some of the lessons learned from the Court’s experience.

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