Bob de Flesco of CSK’s Ft. Lauderdale West office and Mitchell Rozen of CSK’s Miami office recently obtained final summary judgment in favor of Stantec Consulting Services, a transportation engineering firm. Stantec was sued as a result of a 2015 automobile accident that occurred in Miami-Dade County in which a vehicle carrying a family of five was forced off the road by a hit-and-run driver and crashed into the unprotected end of a concrete barrier wall separating the travel and exit lanes. All five family members were significantly injured.
The exit ramp was under construction at the time. Stantec prepared the Temporary Traffic Control Plans (“TCP”) to alert and assist drivers navigating the construction zone. FDOT mandates a “clear zone” between the lane of travel and any obstructions or obstacles on the shoulder. The clear zone required at the crash site was 24 feet. It was undisputed that the blunt end of the barrier wall was outside of the clear zone. Plaintiffs sued Stantec, arguing it should have designed a crash cushion or attenuator to protect the blunt end.
Section 337.195(3), Florida Statutes, provides a rebuttable presumption that a design engineer meets the standard of care if its plans conform to the FDOT design standards. The presumption can only be overcome with a showing of gross negligence. Plaintiffs argued Stantec could and should have done more to protect the public with “extra” safety measures, and their expert testified Stantec failed to exercise professional judgment.
CSK argued that any inquiry into what more could have or should have been done would render section 337.195(3) irrelevant; if one must try the case to learn its fate, the statutory “immunity” conferred is no immunity at all. The judge agreed and granted final summary judgment in Stantec’s favor.
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