ATLANTA – September 21, 2011 – The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals made the decision yesterday to reverse a lower court's $150 million judgment against Holland & Knight client, Applied Technical Service, Inc. (ATS), in a high-profile case involving claims of negligence and defamation by Douglas Asphalt Company.
The original case, Douglas Asphalt v. Applied Technical Service, Inc., arose from a contract dispute between Douglas and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). GDOT awarded Douglas two paving contracts to mill and resurface certain stretches of interstate highway in Georgia, however after the first project was completed, GDOT began noticing that the asphalt Douglas had laid was showing excessive wear. GDOT hired ATS to conduct tests which showed that the deterioration was due to an insufficient amount of hydrated lime, an ingredient in the asphalt that reduces its susceptibility to moisture damage.
In 2009, Douglas sued ATS, claiming that the test to determine the quality of their roadwork was defective and caused them to lose their business with the local government and forced them into bankruptcy. The jury awarded $150 million in damages to Douglas. The verdict was #1 on the Daily Report's list of "Top 25 Verdicts in Georgia" for 2009.
Holland & Knight partner Laurie Webb Daniel handled the appeal on behalf of ATS, successfully arguing that the test ATS used to measure the quality of Douglas' roadwork was designed by GDOT and that ATS was merely conveying information it recorded according to procedures GDOT established. According to law, this does not qualify as defamation.
Furthermore, Laurie established that since ATS had a contractual relationship with GDOT and no formal relationship with Douglas, ATS had no professional duty to Douglas and therefore was not liable for claims of negligence.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued their opinion in favor of ATS, vacating the $150 million judgment on September 20, 2011.
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