Skanska has filed a limitation of liability complaint, effectively stalling more than 70 lawsuits against the company for damage it caused to Pensacola Bay Bridge—and to the Pensacola and Gulf Breeze areas, as a result. This hasn’t stopped the two key plaintiffs’ law firms from pushing for immediate consequences for the multinational construction and development company, according to reports from Pensacola News Journal.
The firms—Levin Papantonio Rafferty and Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz PLLC—are urging legislators to impose a statewide blacklist preventing Skanska’s involvement in future projects until victims of the bridge outage have been meaningfully compensated for their losses.
Also known as the Three-Mile Bridge, this structure connects downtown Pensacola, Florida to Gulf Breeze, Florida. The Florida Department of Transportation reports it is boosting all efforts to repair the bridge by March 2021, however, the bridge has been closed to traffic since the incident, which occurred September 2020. The outage has affected not only business commuters, but also business owners, according to PNJ.
"Gulf Breeze is a ghost town, I don’t know how these people are making it, and all of this was caused by a sheer act of stupidity," said Brian Barr, the lead attorney working on the case for Levin Papantonio Rafferty at a recent town hall meeting. “It’s the only way you can characterize it."
According to Skanska’s complaint, the company could not have known that Hurricane Sally would have prompted the damage to the Pensacola Bay Bridge. Barr dismisses the validity of this defense. He also cautions that if the case were to proceed as a maritime law case, community members and businesses who suffered financial loss from the accident would recover no damages from Skanska. The only individuals eligible for compensation in this case would be those who suffered physical damage from the barges.
Although Skanska’s complaint seeks exoneration from all damages, it also asks that, if found liable for economic losses suffered by residents and business, damages be capped at $1.2 million.
While Barr remains confident that Skanska’s complaint will be dismissed, that’s no reason for anyone to rest on their laurels regarding the outcome of the barge accident and the need for accountability and consequences.
The lead attorney on the Pensacola Bridge case at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz PLLC law firm, Sam Geisler, told PNJ he has mailed correspondence to various local officials requesting that they take meaningful action against Skanska in the form of blacklisting the company. In his mind it just makes sense. The attorney has also reached out to the Attorney General, asking for an investigation into Skanska’s role in the damage to and outage of the Pensacola Bay Bridge.
Geisler also brought up a December incident involving a Skanska barge. The vessel apparently became unmoored from a staging area and wound up stuck against private docks on the Gulf Breeze side of the Pensacola Bay Bridge. The lawyer remarked that the incidents showcase a company that “feels above accountability.”