Savannah Dock Collapse Faces Additional Lawsuits

The city of Savannah and Chatham Area Transit are being sued in two recent lawsuits over allegations they were negligent in the collapse of a dock last year that resulted in injuries and millions in awarded damages.

Howard and Anne Redlus and Bruce and Karen Adams filed two separate civil lawsuits in the State Court of Chatham County April 26, according to Savannah Morning News.

In compliance with Georgia law, Savannah attorney John B. Manly submitted ante litem notices to the city in January to inform of the victims’ intent to sue. According to those notices, Manly claims the two couples suffered nearly $2 million in damages in the November 2016 collapse that sent dozens of people into the Savannah River. The South Carolina residents were waiting to board the Hutchinson Island ferry on a city-owned dock on River Street. The gangway structure, used by Chatham Area Transit at the time, then unexpectedly disengaged.

Anne Redlus broke her ribs and suffered severe lacerations and several contusions, and spent weeks getting treatment. “The full extent of her injuries are not known; however, it is likely that Mrs. Redlus will have permanent scarring from the injuries she sustained on her leg,” Manly wrote in the ante litem notice. Her damages were estimated to be around $1 million. Howard Redlus received physical therapy for a shoulder injury. Manly estimated damages for his injury to be around $750,000.

Bruce and Karen Adams suffered bruises and muscle strains, with damages claimed to be around $1 million.

The lawsuits allege that the city and Chatham Area Transit were responsible for failing to provide safe and secure facilities, and did not tell people to avoid waiting on the gangway.

Savannah Dock Collapse Led to 13 Hospitalizations

Just before 4 p.m. on Nov. 19, 55 people were standing on the gangway when it collapsed.

Witnesses and those who were on the ramp at the time called the whole incident “scary.”

“We first heard a lot of commotion,” Joseph Bilton, who was near the ramp, told Savannah Morning News that day. “We just heard people say ‘man overboard.’ They kept saying ‘man overboard. This is not a drill. It’s not a drill.’ A couple of our guys rushed out to help and saw they were just trying to pull people from the river.”

Savannah Fire and Emergency Services and the Southside Fire Department pulled people from the frigid Savannah River while some clung to the walls of the wharf. Thirty people were injured with 13 taken to the hospital for hypothermia and other injuries.

Master Firefighter Michael Curry collapsed at the scene from an unrelated medical condition while he was attempting to help stranded passengers. The 13-year fire department veteran was taken to Memorial University Medical Center where he later died.

Newest Lawsuits Follow Otherss Against Savannah and CAT

These two lawsuits are just the latest suits against the city over the River Street ramp collapse. In December, attorney Richard Middleton filed a joint civil lawsuit on behalf of Margaret Brantly and Tresa Wilson against Chatham Area Transit for its role in the collapse.

The lawsuit alleges, “CAT also had the exclusive responsibility to maintain those structures and vessels in a safe working condition at all times, and to employ extraordinary diligence in discharging that responsibility,” according to WTOC News. It also said, “CAT has acted in bad faith, has been stubbornly litigious and has caused the plaintiffs unnecessary trouble and expenses.”

Ante litem notices were also submitted by attorney Brent Savage on behalf of Julie Potts. Savage is seeking $250,000 for several injuries suffered by Potts and damage to her property during the collapse.

The city and Chatham Area Transit have blamed one another for the ramp collapse. Neither has responded to requests for comments.