© 2022 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Court clears way for Irma-related lawsuit against Monroe County


An appeals court Wednesday said a disaster-recovery firm can continue pursuing claims against Monroe County in a dispute about removal of waste and debris after Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys in 2017.

AshBritt, Inc., which had a contract with Monroe County, filed a lawsuit contending that it should receive additional compensation because of work removing what is known as “putrefied waste” and a need to haul debris farther than planned.

The county argued that it should be shielded from the lawsuit because of sovereign immunity, which helps protect government agencies from lawsuits. But a Monroe County circuit judge refused to grant summary judgment in favor of the county, and a panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld that decision Wednesday.

"The question on appeal turns on whether the agreement between the county and AshBritt may provide recourse for AshBritt’s claims for extra compensation, as the trial court concluded, or, as the county argues here, whether sovereign immunity bars recovery,” said the six-page decision. “As explained … we agree with the trial court’s extensive and well-reasoned analysis concluding that factual disputes over the contract terms prevent entry of summary judgment in favor of the county on sovereign immunity grounds.”