Lawyer says Skanska was negligent and erased cellphone evidence in bridge lawsuit
PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) – More than a year has passed since Skanska construction barges destroyed sections of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, causing months of headache for commuters and straining profits for business owners.
Now the lawyers are preparing for a civil trial.
Lawyers representing nearly 1,000 claimants in this lawsuit said Skanska was negligent in preparing for Hurricane Sally and intentionally erased employee cell phone data to destroy evidence.
“There are so many acts of neglect and failure,” said Sam Geisler, partner at the law firm Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz.
In a court document sent to WKRG News 5, lawyers, representing business owners to owners and commuters in the lawsuits against Skanska, allege the construction company was not prepared for Hurricane Sally.
“What the National Weather Service was showing, the alerts the Coast Guard was issuing, (everyone) was saying it was about time,” Geisler said. “It’s time to prepare.
The lawyers allege that the evidence shows that Skanska’s hurricane plan for 2020 was inadequate and that they did not follow the proper protocols. The documents allege that Skanska waited too long to move the barges and did not secure them far enough from the bridge in Pensacola Bay.
Barges destroyed part of the Pensacola Bay bridge, forcing commuters to take a long detour away from struggling businesses during the pandemic.
“These barges were breaking free at a time when the wind was blowing at 16.17 knots,” Geisler said. “It shows you how badly these were located.”
A judge on Friday ordered Skanska to pay the plaintiffs about $ 92,000 in legal fees after enough circumstantial evidence showed the company had deleted cell phone data from key employees.
A judge ruled that there was no direct evidence to prove it, Skanska said in a statement.
“Although Skanska does not generally comment on the cases in dispute, Skanska produced more than two terabytes of information (approximately 150 million pages of documents) in response to discovery and the court found no direct evidence of bad faith on the part of Skanska, “the statement read. “The ruling concerned only the accidental loss of data on five cell phones that were lost or reused after employees left the company.”
Geisler said he believed the company had in fact acted in bad faith and intentionally deleted the data.
“That evidence is gone, and they are the people who were most important on the ground in getting the barges off the bridge before Hurricane Sally,” Geisler said. “Why would Skanska allow these to be destroyed – there is no reasonable innocent explanation for this.”
Skanska demands zero liability for damage to the bridge. Geisler says his clients are looking for money again to be “made whole.”
“My clients. They just want to be healed. That’s ultimately what they’re looking for,” he said. “It’s reasonable because they’ve prepared their businesses for the hurricane. And Skanska, c undeniable failure.
The trial is scheduled to open in federal court in Pensacola on October 18.