Road project lawsuit filed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Becnel sues parish, Coastal over lime that got on vehicles in Reserve



RESERVE – Many people using the road into Regala Park in Reserve were probably happy to see the dilapidated road being prepared for a repair recently.

But the resurfacing job of those streets, which also leads to Louisiana Technical College and the new St. John Senior Center, turned into a big problem late last week when lime laid on the entire roadway was picked up by drivers and their vehicles.

Coastal Bridge Company, LLC, based in Baton Rouge, was hired by St. John Parish to resurface the roads, more exactly described as West 10th St., Regala Park Boulevard and Rosenwald Street.

But Reserve attorney Daniel Becnel Jr. said he began receiving numerous calls late in the week from people who were upset that their vehicles had gotten lime all over them, and from others who said the lime created physical problems.

Becnel, known nationally for his involvement in high profile class action suits, quickly filed a lawsuit on Friday in the 40th Judicial District Court, naming Coastal Bridge and St. John Parish as defendants in the suit.

&#8220We have had lots of calls. Hundreds of people went through it, and now they can’t get it off their cars. This lime is acid, and if it mixes with any moisture, it can just eat a car away,” Becnel explained. &#8220Some people have washed their cars three times and still can’t get it off.”

No calls were returned from Coastal Bridge Project Manager Josh Gunn on the matter, but St. John Chief Administrative Officer Natalie Robottom said there was a meeting Monday morning about the problem.

&#8220We have met with Coastal representatives and they are taking responsibility for cleaning vehicles,” she said. &#8220They told us that they believed they had taken the proper protection for vehicles in that area, but apparently people moved the roadblocks and drove on the road anyway.”

Robottom said the plan on the road repair was to do only half of the road at first, and then the other half of the road, which would keep vehicles from driving over the lime when it was first placed.

&#8220That didn’t work since people apparently moved the signs and drove through that area anyway,” she said. &#8220But there were also supposed to be flagmen there.”

Even though Robottom said the plan was to do only half of the road at a time, a view of the roads on Friday showed lime on all three streets, on both sides. Road closed signs were sitting to the side of the entrance from either east or west side.

&#8220They also were supposed to contact the Technical College and Senior Center before any of this started and inform them of what they were going to do,” Robbottom added. &#8220From what we were told, they only contacted the Technical College.”

Becnel filed the suit on behalf of Dejuana Hamilton, Natoya Davis, Laquita Abbate and Barbara Bourgeois.

One driver, who wished to remain anonymous on Monday, was seen driving on the road and said, &#8220they never had any signs out here from the first place. This stuff choked everybody up.”

Becnel, who specializes in research about products and companies he sues against, said that lime is like flour, which can create many physical ailments if people just are near it, such as burning sensation, shortness of breath, sore throat, dry skin, abdominal cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.

&#8220They should have closed the road completely where they were putting the lime down, and they didn’t,” Becnel said. &#8220This stuff is very powerful. Did you know murderers use it to get rid of bodies, because it can eat a body away in three to four days? I just can’t believe the parish didn’t stop this.”

Becnel is petitioning the court to make the lawsuit class action, alleging Coastal Bridge and St. John Parish did not do enough to ensure the problem would not occur, and then did not react quickly enough when they were informed that there was a problem.