Bradenton, FL.—A Florida state court jury heard opening statements Tuesday in Manatee County’s $2.7 million lawsuit against URS Corp. over claims that the civil engineering giant was negligent in performing repairs on the Lake Manatee Dam.
Wayne Mason of Sedgwick LLP, representing URS, told the jury during his opening statement that the blame lay with Manatee County and Johnson Brothers Construction, the contractor for the dam repair project. Mason claimed that while URS was responsible for the engineering of the cofferdam, Johnson Brothers was responsible for the actual construction using a different design.
“The URS design was never built,” Mason said, arguing that the county should instead have sued the contractor. “What was built was the poorly-planned, draw-it-up-as-you-go work of Johnson Brothers.”
Mason said the county and Johnson Brothers were responsible for the decision to remove the cofferdam rather than repair it, despite URS’ position that it didn’t pose any risk to public safety. He suggested a payout from a large corporation like URS could be motivation for the county’s suit and not any actual negligence.
“The evidence will be that somehow somebody at Manatee County has persuaded themselves or been persuaded to try and use this lawsuit to turn mistakes and misjudgments into money,” Mason said.
Both parties are expected to rely on extensive expert witness testimony during the trial, and while asking jurors not to seek out any outside information about the case, Judge Peter Dubensky acknowledged the challenges of considering such complex technical arguments.
“I know as I’ve listened to some of this case I’ve been confused,” Judge Dubensky said in an attempt to sympathize with jurors intimidated by the subject matter. “Everything will be explained to you.”