Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Were Engineers Responsible in Fortner Death?

A hearing took place in the Frances Fortner wrongful death lawsuit in Hinds County Circuit Court today. WLBT reported: 

 Arguments were made Wednesday in a hearing that could determine whether two local engineering firms can be held liable in the 2018 death of Frances Fortner.

The firms, IMS Engineers and TMM Hall Professional Services, are asking a judge to throw out the civil suit against them, saying they were not working for the city of Jackson when Frances was killed, nor were they on the job when the contractor, Superior Asphalt, repaved the street.

Frances, a Jackson Academy senior, was killed on May 17, 2018, when the car she was driving hit an unsecured manhole cover on Ridgewood Road and flipped. Frances was on her way to graduation rehearsal.

Frances’ parents, Thomas and Laurilyn, filed a wrongful death suit against IMS, TMM Hall, Superior Asphalt, the city of Jackson and others that November.

Superior Asphalt, the firm responsible for paving the road, settled with the Fortner family for an undisclosed amount.

However, the city of Jackson, along with IMS and TMM Hall, filed motions for summary judgment, saying they weren’t responsible for the teen’s death.

Following a roughly three-hour hearing before Circuit Judge Faye Peterson, the only thing that could be agreed upon Wednesday was that the death of the North Jackson teen was a tragedy....

Peterson heard from attorneys for IMS, TMM Hall and Thomas and Laurilyn Fortner, and said she would take the matter under advisement. The judge did not take up the city of Jackson’s motion, saying that would be done at a later date.

At the heart of the matter was who was responsible for the loose manhole that caused the accident. The suit alleges that it was improperly installed and that the city and contractors did not post warnings of the danger.

Pieter Teeuwissen, an attorney for TMM, says his client couldn’t be liable because it hadn’t been working on the project for more than a year.

“TMM Hall had been gone since September 2016. The last work that was done by TMM Hall, and there’s no dispute about this, was in 2016. The last payment from the city to TMM Hall, again [there’s] no dispute, was in December 2016,” he said. “Whatever decision Superior made a year and a half later was not dependent on anything done by TMM Hall.”*

Stevens, though, disagreed, saying a bridge often doesn’t collapse as soon as it’s put up but falls under ongoing stress. He also blamed TMM for procuring the incorrect riser rings, which were used by Superior when raising the manhole covers.

He also pointed to depositions given by IMS employees saying TMM was responsible for inspecting the manhole covers along Ridgewood. (KF: Judge Peterson sealed their depositions.).  

“There are two periods of inspection. One is you inspect the road beforehand... and that can include and did include taking measurements. However, TMM Hall did not measure the sewers. They were under the mistaken impression because they didn’t look, that these were all standard,” he said. “And clearly, the ones in this small area of Ridgewood Road were not standard.”

TMM Hall was a subcontractor working for IMS Engineers, the city’s former one-percent program manager.

IMS was brought on in late 2015 to oversee the implementation of projects funded by the city’s one-percent infrastructure sales tax.

For its part, TMM was tasked with managing some paving projects, including one to repave five major Jackson thoroughfares. Superior was brought on to mill and overlay those streets.

IMS and TMM Hall attempted to shift the blame to Superior, saying the company fell behind on the work and brought in a “rogue” employee who failed to follow city and state specifications to speed up construction.

IMS also told the judge that they shouldn’t be blamed because, like TMM, they were no longer with Jackson when the project was completed.

“The work that created this dangerous condition occurred at least 10 months after IMS was no longer involved in this project,” said Thear Lemoine, an attorney for IMS. “We’re not even here talking about what has actually caused that manhole to fail. The plaintiffs have spent much of their briefing on the timing of when all this occurred, which doesn’t make any sense.”.... Rest of article.

*Where have we seen TMM Hall before? Oh yes, check out this passage from a November 2016 post about the AECOM proposal: 

Marques Hall gets 16%.  He is the owner of TMMHall Professional Services, LLC.  The company was created on November 12, 2015 - a week after election day.  Mr. Hall operates his company out of his home.  It is not known how many employees he has.   Mr. Hall was an engineer at MDOT.  However, he resigned after MDOT officials confronted him about his side job for the city of Jackson under this contract.

Mr. Hall will participate in the contract under AECOM's mentor-protege program.  The proposal states he will be responsible for construction and transition management.  The Clarion-Ledger reported his limited partner in this venture is Johnny Crisler.  Mr. Crisler is the brother of Jackson deputy Chief Administrative Officer Marshand Crisler.  



Anonymous said...

There's no such thing as a 'loose manhole'.

Anonymous said...

Marques Hall? Good lord, I’m dealing with him on something now. He’s the absolute worst. He can’t engineer a thing. IMS has some capabilities when hired for the right reasons and held accountable.

Anonymous said...

If this had been a student at Cassie Elementary or JPS School, the Mayor would have made sure the family was compensated for the COJ NEGLIGENCE! IMS Ana’s skated around this issue for almost 5 years. Enough is enough. I cannot imagine the anger of the Fortner’s is the death of their only child. She would have been an asset to any life she touched and contributed much to society. COJ and IMS should be HELD ACCOUNTABLE as many of us drove down that rode a few days before her wreck and we too were almost killed!

Anonymous said...

If the city of Jackson had any sort of follow up/consequence/quality control - that young adult wouldn’t have met an untimely death. Instead, all the “powers that be” now get to play the blame and shame game which is just insult to the family’s injury and horrific loss. If the COJ was actually run like an independent business that had to follow up on work done and meet approval and specs/regulations aka accountability like the rest of us - maybe this would have been avoided. Contractors should get paid timely for a job done well and if it’s not, regroup and redo or hire another. It’s business 101. The mayor and council should take heed. Their negligence is truly stealing lives.

Anonymous said...

There’s a manhole on Jefferson near Fenian’s that’s comes loose quite often for what feels like years now.

Anonymous said...

IMS was the engineer for the project. IMS specified that the city would provide the riser rings. The wrong size riser was provided, and it broke in half after having been run over several times after its installation. I never figured how Superior was at fault - they installed the riser that the city provided, as specified by IMS. TMM, as IMS's subcontractor, is likely to be responsible as well, but not knowing the contract arrangements between the two of those companies, hard to determine.

But the bullshit claim that they were no longer employed by the city is just that - typical TMM Hall and IMS bullshit. The project specifications were written by IMS, and that's where the problem originated.

Anonymous said...

I know from 22 years of working with engineers that it’s definitely never the engineers fault. Just ask one.

Anonymous said...

6:20, not to disagree with your sentiment, but what in the world does '...we too were almost killed' mean?

Anonymous said...

"I was nowhere near it when the bomb went off, so I couldn't possibly be guilty," said the guy who planted the bomb.

Anonymous said...

If installation is improper and creates a hazard when installed and a year passes and it still creates a hazard because it hasn't been corrected, how does the passage of time absolve the company responsible for the installation? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous said...

That pesky products and completed opps. Being part of insurance litigation, they will all pay some amount to settle, this back and forth is to try and see how much.

Anonymous said...

Peterson? They all skate.

Anonymous said...

When engineers cheat to get. Through school, people die. When the city bureaucrat is too lazy to order the right part, people die. When the contractor is too much in a hurry to verify they install the specified part, people die.

Anonymous said...

If installation is improper and creates a hazard when installed and a year passes and it still creates a hazard because it hasn't been corrected, how does the passage of time absolve the company responsible for the installation?

It stands to reason that the longer it has been since the company installed the hazard the longer more competent parties haven't spotted and fixed the hazard installation they didn't get paid for finding or installing or fixing!

Le'me hold a dolla... said...

What do the indemnity clause, if any, say in each contract "the consultant will indemnify the COJ against any and all claims of negligent acts performed by the consultant under this contract by any employee of the consultant or sub-consultants or employees of the sub-consultant...." we'll never see the contract documents. What an absolute tragedy on so many levels but most importantly the victims family.

I agree 8:34 - I have never heard an engineer admit or say they were wrong about's like some type of badge they earn when they graduate MS State!

BTW - wasn't IMS and Superior responsible for paving disaster on the west runway at THE Jackson Wiley Evers International Airport? Awesome group of folk right there!

Anonymous said...

Hasn't the City already paid $500,000 the max permitted by state sovereignty statues?

Anonymous said...

On a case the like the judge, or at least the staff attorney, really needs to be the smartest person in the room. But . . .

Anonymous said...

I have actually had both an engineer and an architect admit they were wrong. It was quite refreshing, as this is a rare occurrence. More than one engineer actually.

This kind of thing is the result of hiring firms based on race and not competency. It’s way past time for society to admit this is a disaster and to insist that standards are met and kept. Look up IMS’s website. Not much work done around here that is advertised on their site. Apparently being the right race, being for “equity”, “social justice”, and having approved opinions about COVID 19 are high priorities for this “engineering firm”. What do any of those things have to do with engineering?

Anonymous said...

A mis-designed/installed manhole should be relatively easy to prove. Buildings that collapsed from an earthquake in Turkey and Syria are more complex to identify the culprits as engineering or construction.

Anonymous said...

Being the construction industry for 30 + years (civil site/ road building )
and moving to Jackson a few years ago. The standards for road building are shit ! it takes twice as long than any project in Tennessee to complete , no one uses Grade Rings to raise the manhole up to level on a re surface. You end up with a new road with new pot holes , absolutely ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Have they even resolved what caused the manhole not to be covered? Do we know it wasn’t a a worker who pulled it off and didn’t put it back? Do we know it was a faulty installation or faulty parts? It seems to me that if the reason for the problem were established, that would at least limit some of the argument about fault.

Anonymous said...

Refresh my this the same manhole that someone called the city about that morning? Didn't a JPD officer arrive on the scene and then leave without putting up a barricade? If so, how could the COJ not be liable?

Anonymous said...

I am an engineer with no connection to this issue or the parties involved. I've also been to many classes concerning liability, construction law, etc. over the last 40 years. There is not enough information in the article to come to any real conclusion concerning cause, much less liability. We all know that the TV news reports everything completely, factually and accurately, right? One must know the facts in evidence prior to making a valid judgment.

And yes, there are sometimes loose manhole risers or covers or rings, if not the manholes themselves.

And yes, sometimes it is the engineer's fault. Many times the engineer's fault is in not catching it when the construction contractor did something wrong.

Krusatyr said...

Unlike some types of construction, engineer specified projects are inspected by the engineer before the contractor gets paid. For civil work these inspections are a matter of record in the governing authority files, as well as at the Engineer's office, for years.

Anonymous said...

I can guarantee whoever did the work, gave a certificate of insurance indemnifying the City of Jackson, Engineers, etc. Let it also be noted that Superior is a WG Yates owned company. I have heard a project manager for Yates(face to face) state that he would never sign a contract with them as a subcontractor due to the subcontractor agreement. The certificates, subcontractor agreements, contract with COJ will all come into play. I also agree with a previous poster that all of their insurance policies will pay a portion, if not policy limits. All parties are posturing to see who pays the lions share.

Anonymous said...

Marques Hall can't be responsible. Because he is too irresponsible to be responsible for anything.

Anonymous said...

Right after Frances Fortner was killed, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city would take responsibility.

"I feel that it is my responsibility as the mayor of this city to be honest to the Fortner family and to be honest to the citizens of Jackson and acknowledge that the city of Jackson failed to appropriately secure the site at the time that we learned that the manhole cover was not properly in place," Lumumba said in May 2018. "We owe responsibility to the Fortner family and we owe that acknowledgement in taking responsibility to the citizens of Jackson."

Since then, the city has changed its tune and also filed a motion for summary judgment.


Anonymous said...

8:47 AM
I suspect Lumumba looked at city financials and said fuck that.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I want all roads to be as safe as possible. Our roads will be travelled by inexperienced, newly licensed drivers. And, we can't have unrealistic expectations about their ability at a young age to adequately assess risks.
But, frankly, having travelled that same road in that same lane on that same day and before and after, I can't help but wonder if speed (the limit is seldom followed or enforced) and age( inexperience) of the driver weren't factors.
There are members in my family ( usually male) who hit even potholes repeatedly at the expense of tires and rims and new ones crop up on roads well travelled. But, some of us never have hit a pothole as we expect their existence,know they are especially hard to see in rainy conditions. We pay attention to the road and not following another vehicle too closely.
We don't have to be in a hurry if we plan our time and/or accept that being "late" isn't fatal.
This was a tragic, tragic accident and any loss of young people for any reason is horrific...especially when everything that could go wrong did and " what ifs" and "if onlys" as occur with all tragedies abound.
Many more of our children are lost in gun violence these days but we aren't successfully suing gun manufacturers for making guns more lethal. Yet, more lethal rapid fire power is not an "unintended or uncontemplated consequence" . Nor is it not known that not all gun owners are " experts" in usage.
And, frankly, lawyers who are ethical and excellent in their profession, would tell those seeking their services why their case lacks legal merit and is unlikely to succeed and how a court case consumes their lives for years, no matter the outcome, and depletes their finances. They will tell them that being "whole" again emotionally, legally or financially isn't possible. And, "prevention"( keeping others from coming to an identical tragic end) is already learned in this case.

Anonymous said...

9:44 AM
Good to see the Jackson legal council making their appearance, but the truth of the matter is gun deaths are a vanishingly small percentage.

Anonymous said...

9:44am says 2nd A shot that manhole cover off? Brilliant, unbiased opinions are the delicate footprint of Witch Doctor Omari.

Anonymous said...

9:44 your self-righteousness is just too much. The fact is that the manhole was uncovered. Whether the driver was 18 and speeding or 98 and creeping, hitting the uncovered manhole is what lead to her death. It is completely reasonable to expect your city to cover its manholes or mark them as uncovered at the very least. It's also completely reasonable to expect your city to fill potholes or mark them at the very least. Maybe you've lived in the COJ so long that you no longer have any expectations of your government.

Also, not sure how you can expect a gun manufacturer to be liable for a PERSON pulling a trigger, but good try. Also, if your gun needs to be made "more lethal" I think you need more training.

Anonymous said...

10:27 made a throw-away comment that bears repeating.

"Maybe you've lived in the COJ so long that you no longer have any expectations of your government."

The mayor has effectively reprogrammed his minions to expect less in the way of basic safety and quality of life and baselessly redirected that anger due toward Caucasians.
It may be the only smart thing Chuck has done or is capable of.

So they see the very warranted anger over this death as nonsensical.
Because they genuinely don't know that a city is supposed to provide basic infrastructure safety.

Anonymous said...

I called 911 and reported that manhole cover being turned up like a ramp. About an hour and a half later I came back that way and there were emergency vehicles everywhere. We saw the red Miata was upside down and knew what had happened. It was sickening. Criminal negligence should’ve filed against the 911 operator who failed to relay the message to JPD & Public Works. Multiple people called it in and she reportedly did nothing.

Anonymous said...

Logical/realistic and self-righteous aren't the same.
If you are telling me that "creeping" speed and hitting a manhole cover will kill you and flip a car, that's crazy even with too many of today's auto having, you composite steel and crap for tires.
I don't expect the gun manufacturer to be held responsible and they aren't.Nor either of us know whether the manhole cover was the wrong size or the asphalt was improperly poured or the laborers poorly instructed /supervised or the engineers are to blame or the city for hiring the wrong people.
That you can't see that scattering of fault as problematic and too irrational to take into a courtroom, you really need more help that you can be given.
Life is not fair and bad things can happen to good people and good people can make bad mistakes. Once upon a time in this country, when the law was a profession and not a business and ethics were actually enforced and judges didn't let lawyers get buy with testifying themselves or trying a case in public, we knew these things.

Anonymous said...

12:36 professes to wash away COJ's lethal slop with a dose of 'shit-happens' attitude. For sure, if shit happens anywhere, it sure happens in/from/with/about/under and because of COJ, especially its administration.

Anonymous said...

11:19: If you haven't already given a deposition, I'm sure the plaintiffs' attorneys would love to hear from you before they have to argue against the city's motion for summary judgment. Give them a call.

Anonymous said...

"That you can't see that scattering of fault as problematic and too irrational to take into a courtroom"

Actually, that's exactly what a properly-instructed jury does. It apportions percentages of fault among multiple defendants, assigns percentages of fault to the plaintiff/injured party, and comes up with a formula that is then applied to the amount of damages to figure out who pays what.

Anonymous said...

Yes 11:52 Several people called the day before & the morning of the accident b4 accident happened. The day b4 I was fortunate enough to be able to swerve to keep from also having a wreck or possibly death as there was no on coming traffic at the time. Request were made for the COJ to send an officer there until signs could be put up to advise motorist. Simple request. Had it been a school bus we would not be having this discussion.

Anonymous said...

11:19 reads exactly what happened ‘ how it could have been a greater number of lives lost the days b4 & the day of Francis death.Not an Accident for the last time. Negligence on the City of Jackson for Not securing safe roads

Anonymous said...

Thank for proving my pint about engineers never being wrong

Anonymous said...

Next time all of you are out driving, please note WHERE manholes are placed.

I don't want you to try to hit them directly because to do so, you'd have to veer out of your lane.

You will,if observant, start to see that , not just on Ridgewood, but every street in every town and city, manholes are placed so as to keep you from hitting them.

And, yes, you can go to court these days and see lawyers throw "everything and the kitchen sink" at a jury whether relevant or not and see, like in some notorious cases where judges seem not to know how to control their courts, attorney create fantasy alternative legal theories and "dudes who did it" it sexual abuse by a father or unseen/unknown drug dealers who left no evidence except a wet leather glove that shrunk in the CA heat.

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