Skanska USA sued by local businesses for economic losses from Florida bridge shutdown

Nov 12, 2020

Dive Brief:

  • A Pensacola, Florida, law firm announced last week that it has filed five lawsuits against Skanksa USA’s Civil Southeast division on behalf of local businesses that allegedly lost revenue after 27 barge work platforms used in construction of the $430 million Pensacola Bay Bridge project broke loose from their moorings during September’s Hurricane Sally and damaged the bridge, forcing it to shut down.
  • The suits claim that after the first of two new spans had to be shut down because of the damage that Skanska’s barges caused, the businesses were cut off from customers, resulting in “crippling if not insurmountable economic losses.” The lawsuits also allege that Skanska did not follow its own hurricane preparedness plan when it failed to make adequate preparations before the storm and accuse the company of negligence and breach of contract among other charges.
  • Also named as a defendant in the legal actions is engineering firm Eisman & Russo, which has a Florida DOT contract for construction management and construction engineering and inspection services for the bridge project. The company is also providing construction administration, cost estimation and management, quality assurance/control and planning and scheduling, according to its website.

Dive Insight:

Construction Dive reached out to Skanska for a response to the lawsuits, but a spokesperson said the company does not comment on matters of existing or pending litigation.

After the property damage caused by the barges became apparent, Skanska told Construction Dive that it based its pre-storm preparation on the information it had at the time about the path of the hurricane. Sally’s shift toward Pensacola, it said, was unexpected.

The businesses suing Skanska are seeking damages of more than $30,000 each, not including attorney’s fees, and include a flower shop, clothing boutique, liquor store and two restaurants. They are represented by the law firm of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, which said it represents “hundreds of individuals and businesses” in the Pensacola area with claims against Skanska and expects to file more lawsuits against the company.

Escambia County, Florida, is also looking for Skanska to reimburse it for costs associated with the runaway barges, according to the Pensacola News Journal. County officials reportedly said they are in negotiations with the general contractor and would want at least $15 million to rebuild a demolished fishing pier plus additional personnel costs related to the bridge closure.

While the bridge is being repaired and barges continue to be removed, the FDOT has rerouted traffic flow to the nearby Garcon Point Bridge, which collects tolls. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended toll collection on the bridge until Nov 13. If the owner of the privately owned bridge looks to the FDOT for reimbursement of two months of tolls, the department said it will seek those amounts from Skanska.

As for the bridge itself, some sections are in need of repair and others will need to be replaced before it can reopen to traffic. In its latest update, the FDOT said the bridge should reopen sometime in early March.

Author: Kim Slowey
Source: ConstructionDive