Berkman Ruled Responsible For Garage Collapse

Arbitration Panel Makes Ruling More Than 3 Years After Fatal Collapse

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A three-member panel of arbitrators has ruled the 2007 collapse of the Berkman Plaza II garage was the "direct result of design errors" for which Berkman is legally responsible.

The panel also ordered Berkman to pay Choate Construction Co., the general contractor, a multimillion-dollar lien for wrongful termination after the downtown garage collapse.

All claims filed by Berkman against Choate were dismissed in their entirety. The ruling came after more than 20 days of testimony.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration report said in 2009 that there was a "plague" of errors in the construction and there were many people to blame for the collapse.

The garage for the then-new Berkman Plaza high rise collapsed when workers were pouring concrete on the sixth floor of the garage early in the morning on Dec. 6, 2007, killing 26-year-old Willie Edwards III and injuring 23 workers. Edwards was a father of two children.

The arbitration panel ruled that the collapse was a result of the "deficiencies and/or omissions for which Berkman is factually and legally repsonsible [and that] any actions, inactions or omissions by Choate (or its subcontractors or suppliers did not cause the collapse."

"Choate is pleased the experienced panel of arbitrators understood the issues and properly allocated 100 percent responsibility to Berkman for the parking garage collapse, determined that Berkman?s termination of Choate was wrongful and improper, and rejected each of Berkman?s attempts to avoid its liability and responsibility," Choate Construction said in a statement.