Saturday, June 21, 2014

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (KECP) granted new trial

WEST BAY — The Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport Authority has been granted a new day in court after appealing a 2012 jury ruling in favor of construction management company Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), part of a lengthy battle over cost overruns and unpaid invoices that stemmed from the airport’s construction.

Litigation began in 2010 when Phoenix Construction, which held the prime contract, filed a lawsuit against the airport for unpaid construction costs after completion of the $325 million facility.

The airport’s countersuit, an attempt to recoup cost overruns associated with the project, also threw KBR and engineering firm Atkins, formerly PBS&J, into the mix.

The airport settled with both Phoenix and Atkins outside of court, and was ordered to pay KBR $360,000 in damages to cover unpaid invoices and attorney fees.

In a final order from Florida ’s First District Court of Appeal issued Wednesday, the airport was granted an appeal based on the argument that the out-of-court settlement agreement with Phoenix should not have been disclosed to the jury.

Despite KBR’s argument the case was obsolete, the court’s opinion relies heavily on “particularly clear” language in the Florida statutes that bars settlement agreement disclosure to a jury.

“Because the trial court improperly allowed the Airport-Phoenix settlement agreement to be made known to the jury, a new trial is warranted,” the opinion reads.

The opinion did not address the airport’s second grounds for appeal, a claim that the trial court also improperly excluded a witness, because “a new trial is necessary,” it reads.

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