November 25, 2008

Contact:  Eric W. Boyer, Esq.
Managing Partner/Operations
305-670-1101 Ext. 123


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – QPWB defense team obtained a Summary Judgment on behalf of the State of Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in a complaint alleging that construction work severely damaged a building. Claims sought included negligence, nuisance, strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities, and excavation causing subsidence during a road-widening project in Jacksonville, Florida. John Moffitt Howell, Esq., of Howell & O’Neal of Jacksonville, represented the other defendant, Superior Construction Co., Inc. of Indiana (Superior), under contract with FDOT.

On July 19, 2006, Plaintiffs Louis E. Leidecker and John J. Quinlan alleged that heavy machinery used by Superior during the construction project caused a shift in the subsurface soil. Specifically, that construction-induced vibrations generated through operation of construction machinery severely damaged the building where their custom boat business was located. The plaintiffs had recently discovered that not only settling shifts would progress but also that other defects were permanent. They also alleged the work on the road-widening project was inherently dangerous.

The defense argued that plaintiffs’ claims were barred as they had failed to bring the claim within the 4-year statute of limitation period for negligence claims pursuant to Florida Statute §95.11(3). FDOT further argued that the cause of progressive damage to plaintiffs’ property was due in their failure to mitigate damages rather than initiating from excavation activities, as alleged. T. Geoffrey Heekin, Esq., on behalf of plaintiffs, argued that deterioration to the building would persist so long as the shift in the subsurface soil remained un-repaired. He explained that although construction had ended in 2001, not until 2004 did they become aware that a shift in the subsurface soil, caused by the defendants’ activities, led to a permanent settling condition of the building. Moreover, they further alleged that when excavation activities result in property damage, each new piece of damage to the property is a new cause of action.

Through discovery, attempts by Superior to repair plaintiffs’ damages and determine the cause, dated back to 2001, over five years prior to plaintiffs filing suit. The Honorable John H. Skinner, relying on the evidence and looking at it in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, held that the plaintiffs were on notice of their claim, in 2002 at the latest; without more, their claim was barred. Motions for Summary Judgment were granted to both, FDOT and Superior.

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