Danny Collier Prevails in Defense of Powell Construction Services, Inc.

Danny Collier successfully defended Powell Construction Services, Inc., in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, Mississippi.

On October 26, 2008, a night-fishing trip ended when the boat carrying seven persons struck a Bay St. Louis Bridge piling. Numerous personal injuries resulted in multiple lawsuits that the Court consolidated into one case involving six plaintiffs and nine defendants. The plaintiffs alleged that the red and green navigation lights on the bridge (to mark the channel) were not illuminated, thus creating a dangerous condition in the dark waters of the bay.

Photo courtesy of Eutaw Construction

Photo courtesy of Eutaw Construction

In a motion for summary judgment (see attached briefs: Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, Supplemental Memorandum Brief in Support, and 2nd Supplemental Memorandum Brief in Support), Mr. Collier argued that there was no reason for a jury trial because Powell Construction, a highway lighting contractor, prudently accomplished exactly what the Mississippi Department of Transportation hired it to do: make temporary repairs to the navigation lights following Hurricane Gustav. In fact, MDOT had accepted and approved of Powell Construction’s work.

Also, Mr. Collier demonstrated that even if the lights were out that night, the boat operator caused the accident by attempting to pass underneath the Bay St. Louis Bridge knowing that the bridge was up ahead, knowing the navigation lights were out and knowing his heading was based on a previous GPS course.

That GPS course went through the bridge 1½ football fields away from the channel. Basically, the boat operator was not even attempting to pass through the channel when he hit the bridge. As Mr. Collier argued, the context of the accident showed the navigation lights to be a pretext for the lawsuit.

The Circuit Court of Harrison County agreed with Mr. Collier in ruling that the boat operator was the sole proximate cause of the accident (see attached Order and Final Judgment). Therefore, the Court dismissed the negligence and wantonness claims against Powell Construction.

Not content with the Court’s ruling, the plaintiffs filed motions to undo the judgment. Their efforts failed. Mr. Collier convinced the Court that the plaintiffs could establish neither a clear error of law nor manifest injustice.

In Powell Construction’s opposition brief (see attached Response in Opposition), Mr. Collier highlighted his cross-examination of the hostile boat operator. In a spirited deposition, the reluctant forty-year fisherman finally admitted to the Ole Miss lawyer that he was following a prior GPS course taking the fishing party through some location other than the channel.

Basically, the boat operator had attempted to escort his party through a wall of total darkness. That is what caused the crash. On July 23, 2013, the Circuit Court denied the plaintiffs’ motions to alter or amend the judgment (see attached Order). Thus, Powell Construction prevailed.

In addition to general liability, Mr. Collier handles wrongful death, premises liability, products liability, trucking cases and construction law. He practices in Mississippi and Alabama, with offices in Biloxi and Mobile.