ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. — The court must now find a new judge in the case against Skanska USA regarding Three Mile Bridge damage after the current judge recused himself from the case.
Judge Roger Vinson did so, he says, because the homeowners association in Portofino where he owns a condo filed a claim in the case on Friday.
The deadline to file a claim against Skanska wrapped up Monday night.
Sam Geisler — an attorney for law firm Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz — says he counted around 985 claims in total. His firm filed 485 of those.
“Really, you have businesses of all shapes and sizes, from a one-person business all the way up to hundreds of employees,” he said. “Like Baptist, for example, filed a claim, along with all kinds of different businesses. And also municipalities, both counties, both cities — Gulf Breeze and Pensacola — filed claims.. …Really just the level of filing shows just the breadth of effect Skanska’s conduct has caused this region.”
Geisler says many filed right before the deadline. He believes those people likely wanted to have all the information and documentation ready before making the claim official.
As the court works to replace Judge Vinson, Geisler says, if anything, it could impact future deadlines.
In June, a judge will hear oral arguments, deciding if Maritime Law applies in this case. Regardless, a judge will then hear arguments on Sept. 13 about whether Skanska can be held liable for damages related to the closure.
Until those deadlines, Geisler says both parties will file numerous documents.
“Even without the documents, it’s hard to imagine how Skanska was not even just a little bit — and that’s all we need to show — just a little bit negligent,” he said. “Considering in our position, they were grossly negligent, if not worse so.”
Skanska provided Channel 3 this statement on Tuesday:
“Skanska is focused on repairing the Pensacola Bay Bridge as quickly and safely as possible. We remain committed to putting the full resources of our company forward and reconnecting the communities.”
Skanska plans to reopen Pensacola Bay Bridge the week of May 31.
“Reopening a bridge that you were responsible for closing is not the end of accountability,” Geisler said. “It is really not even the beginning of accountability.”