BRADENTON, Fla. — Tampa Bay Water is asking a federal district judge for a new trial after losing its first case to a jury on April 10 after a month-long proceeding.
TBW, a regional supplier for three counties on the west coast of Florida, is seeking to recoup fees for what it believes is a faulty design of Florida’s largest reservoir, a 15.5-billion-gallon facility that began to crack shortly after opening in 2005.
The reservoir was designed by HDR Engineering Inc.
The trial judge erred a number of times by excluding certain evidence, not allowing the jury to physically see the reservoir, and admitting irrelevant or improper evidence, Tampa Bay Water’s attorney, Richard Harrison with Allen Dell PA, said in a court filing Wednesday.
“New trials have been granted because the jury’s verdict was against the great weight of the evidence, because errors were made during the conduct of the trial, such as the improper admission of evidence or improper jury charges, or a combination of both,” Harrison’s motion said. He also asked for oral arguments to be held on the request for a new trial.
TBW filed the suit four years ago seeking to have HDR pay for much of the estimated $122 million to repair cracks in the reservoir. The agency rejected a $30 million settlement offer.
After a lengthy trial, it took jurors less than four hours to decide HDR was not responsible for repairs. After the trial, HDR sought payment of its legal costs, which the judge approved.
Tampa Bay Water is now reviewing the costs, and has initially estimated HDR’s bill at approximately $21.7 million, according to court documents. The agency reportedly has paid $10.6 million in legal fees pursuing the case.
TBW and HDR could not be reached for comment at press time.
Meanwhile, as part of repairing the reservoir, TBW had planned to expand its capacity by another 3 billion gallons.
However, earlier this month the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reportedly notified the agency that it may not approve a permit for the expansion project due to heightened sinkhole activity in the west-central part of the state.
The issue is expected to be discussed at the agency’s meeting June 18 along with upcoming bonding plans to finance repairs on the reservoir.
Tampa Bay Water has $1.05 billion of outstanding revenue bonds rated AA-plus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s, and Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service.