Jury: Contractor responsible for massive water main break

A gavel (WDIV)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A jury found a private contractor responsible for leaving nearly a quarter-million people across seven Florida cities without water for days in 2019.

The verdict late Monday in response to a class-action lawsuit means Florida Communications Concepts could be held liable for tens of millions of dollars, the South Florida SunSentinel reported. A separate trial will be scheduled to determine damages, the newspaper said.

During the weeklong trial, jurors learned that workers for the company believed they had encountered a big rock and drilled a 6-inch (15-centimeter) hole into a 42-inch (107-centimeter) main at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in June 2019.

The drilling affected a line that supplies water to Fort Lauderdale's main water plant, leading to disruptions in all or part of seven cities, plus Port Everglades.

City workers managed to plug the hole with a log and then encase the log and the pipe in concrete, the newspaper reported.

The jury found the company and a subcontractor 98% responsible for the loss to area businesses that had to be shut down, court records show. More than 9,000 restaurants, law firms and retail stores were represented in the class-action lawsuit.

Florida Power and Light was originally named as a defendant in the lawsuit but settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.