A South Carolina road contractor accused in a wrongful death lawsuit can continue to pursue some cross claims against the project engineer and The Lane Construction Corp., its subcontractor for road repairs that are at the center of the case, a federal court judge has ruled—as the firms dispute which may be held responsible.
In a March 7 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis in Columbia, S.C., allowed Associates Roofing & Construction (ARC) to continue pursuing claims of equitable indemnification, contribution, contractual indemnity and breach of warranty against the large Cheshire, Conn., contractor. But she dismissed with prejudice its claims of negligence and breach of contract made against Lane.
The case is related to the 2016 death of cyclist Dr. Frank Hill, a Columbia-based physician. According to a 2019 complaint filed by his wife, Paula Hill, against ARC and engineering firm Earthworks Group, Frank Hill was bicycling on Hampton Parkway on the Fort Jackson military base in Columbia when his front tire fell into a gap between bars in a drainage grate. He was thrown from the bicycle, suffering fatal injuries despite wearing a helmet.
Paula Hill’s suit seeks $12 million in damages.
ARC had contracted with the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command in 2012 to resurface the road. Paula Hill’s lawsuit alleges that Earthworks and ARC were to blame for the drain grate being installed with bars running parallel to the road, and for a rise in the pavement near the drain, which she said prevented her husband from seeing it.
The suit says the grate was the only one in the area installed that way, and that it was later modified with bars running perpendicular to traffic.
In response to the complaint, ARC filed its own cross claims against Lane, which had subcontracted to provide labor and materials for the resurfacing project.
Paula Hill sought to amend her complaint to name Lane as a defendant. However, the judge denied the motion, finding that the statute of limitations had already expired.
ARC also filed claims against Earthworks, which had designed the work. The judge dismissed with prejudice the claims of negligence and breach of contract but allowed claims of equitable indemnification, contribution, contractual indemnity and breach of warranty to continue.
Attorneys representing the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A Lane representative declined to comment because of the ongoing litigation.