Class action lawsuits filed against PCL after bridge mishap causes Outer Banks power outage, evacuation

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Bonner Bridge (from the PCL website)

PCL Construction has been caught in a massive-scale version of a “call before you dig” crisis, when it accidentally drove a steel pylon during construction of the $250 million Herbert C. Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet from Bodie Island to Hatteras Island and cut power for the Outer Banks islands.

The power outage has resulted in a mass evacuation and class-action lawsuits to filed by businesses and visitors from the popular vacation destinations.

One suit, filed by McCune, Wright, Arevalo alleges that the contractor acted negligently, according to court documents filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina, USA Today reports.

“In designing and building the Bonner Bridge, PCL had a duty to exercise reasonable care during construction so as not to cause any interference with the vacation rental plans of individuals and families in the affected area,” court documents said.

Five plaintiffs are listed on the document and are expected to represent more than 5,000 affected by the power outage, according to court documents.

As well, Raleigh-based Whitfield Bryson & Mason LLP (WBM), issued a news release saying it “is one of the first to file a Class Action complaint in the Eastern District of North Carolina as a result of the Bonner Bridge power outage from a construction mishap that severed the area’s main power lines on July 27, 2017. WBM represents business and home owners in the area affected by the outage.”  The lawyers posted a copy of their statement of claim listing three plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, the News & Observer reports that the Wallace and Graham law firm in Salisbury is working with lawyers in North and South Carolina to file a lawsuit against PCL. The lawsuit was filed in Dare County Superior Court, according to Mark Doby, an attorney at Wallace and Graham. The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of the affected individuals and businesses, according to a news release from Wallace and Graham.

The lawsuit names PCL Civil Constructors, headquartered in Raleigh, along with two PCL affiliate companies.

“As a firm representing clients in the Outer Banks area, we can tell you that this power outage could not have happened at a worse time,” said Dennis Rose, of Rose Harrison and Gilreath law firm, one of the firms assisting in the suit. “We are getting calls from local residents and business owners who have been damaged in a variety of ways.”

PCL says on its website that the 2.7-mile bridge has two-lanes, with a maximum span length of 350 feet and a vertical clearance of 70 feet. The north and south approach structures consist of prestressed concrete beams with a cast-in-place deck.

During the design phase, PCL optimized the use of segmental and conventional design features to produce the most cost-efficient structure. As a result of this highly efficient design, innovative construction methods, and accelerated schedule, the project team saved the client $60 million over the other contractor proposals.

Due to the extremely challenging marine environment of the Outer Banks and the environmental sensitivity of this project, the project team will precast 65 percent of the concrete off-site. By applying this type of accelerated bridge construction (ABC) technique, the PCL team will minimize construction activities, thereby reducing environmental impacts and project risks associated with the harsh marine environment. To further enhance quality, the project team will use reinforced steel in all cast-in-place concrete elements.

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