The $4.4 million judgment awarded Multnomah County will go a long way toward helping the county fix its ongoing Morrison Bridge decking debacle.

In a recent jury verdict during a trail about a defective fiber-reinforced deck installed on Portland’s Morrison Bridge lift span in 2011 and 2012, the same deck span that the county plans to replace, the jury found all defendants were negligent to the county, the project’s owner. The jury assigned a portion of the negligence to the county, but awarded an estimated $4.4 million in damages.

“Multnomah County is very pleased with the jury’s verdict in this case,” Deborah Kafoury, county chair, said in a statement. “The county always strives to be a good steward of public funds and to hold people accountable when things go wrong.

“We are ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe bridge for the public’s use and we take the job seriously. When contracting with professionals to do work for us, we have high expectations that they will perform the work they were contracted to do.”

She added that the county plans to move forward with the project to replace the faulty lift span deck with a new deck “as soon as possible.” The deck started coming apart within months of installation. The county expects to begin design on that new deck this year, but hasn’t determined a construction schedule for the project.

The jury found there was $5.6 million in damages, but attributed 22 percent of the negligence to the county, reducing their award to reflect that finding.

ZellComp Inc. of North Carolina, the supplier of the deck, took on 40 percent of the negligence at $2.3 million. Hardesty & Hanover, an engineering firm in New York, was deemed 21 percent responsible ($1.2 million) and Washington state contractor Conway Construction Co. received 17 percent of the blame worth $959,990. Manufacturer Strongwell Corp. of Virginia wasn’t given a financial portion of the negligence.

The county replaced the 57-year-old steel grating on the lift span with the fiber-reinforced material, hoping to reduce the rate of accidents on the slippery-when-wet steel surface.

The county must determine the right material or mix of materials for the deck that keeps driver safety in mind along with maintaining a properly weighted lift span.

Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He also writes for Popular MechanicsSports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.