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Co-worker of Harbour Island Bridge crash victims drops lawsuit against Riverview dentist

TAMPA — Ever since a crash last year on the Harbour Island bridge, Joao Barbosa has maintained that he injured an ankle while jumping out of the way of a speeding car.

The crash, which killed two of Barbosa's co-workers from the Marriott Waterside Hotel, sent him to the hospital and, he said, put him out of work. That was the basis for a lawsuit Barbosa filed against the driver, Riverview dentist Matthew Moye.

But on Monday, Barbosa dropped his lawsuit.

His attorney, Jose Toledo, said he did so because the driver was "grossly underinsured" and Barbosa didn't want to get paid at the expense of the other victims' families, who have filed wrongful death suits.

"You can't even compare what happened to him to what happened to them," Toledo said.

Moye's civil attorney, Brandon Scheele, had a different explanation for why the suit was dropped.

"We have proven that the plaintiff was never involved in the accident and this lawsuit was a total fraud," Scheele said.

Last month, Scheele filed a motion to dismiss the case for fraud upon the court, alleging that Barbosa lied about being close to the crash scene.

During the police investigation and in his civil complaint, Barbosa said he was no more than six feet in front of co-workers Doug Kozar and Kate Kohlier as they walked across bridge at the end of their evening shift. Seconds before Moye crashed, Barbosa heard and saw the speeding car and tried to warn his co-workers to get out of the way, he claimed. He said he dove out of the way of the car and injured his ankle.

Barbosa's attorney says his client still maintains that he was on the bridge.

But video surveillance footage from the hotel, which captured the crash from a distance, shows only two people crossing the bridge at the time of impact.

"Plaintiff has perpetrated a fraud upon this Court in an opportunistic attempt to capitalize upon a tragic event which claimed the lives of two people," Scheele wrote in his dismissal motion. Scheele also noted that Barbosa filed the suit just two days after the crash happened.

Mark Cox, spokesman for the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office, said this week's development in the civil case won't affect Moye's criminal case.

Moye faces two counts each of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and DUI with property damage or personal injury, and one count of battery on a law enforcement officer.

A Tampa police investigation found that he reached 89 mph seconds before the crash and had a blood alcohol level of 0.13 percent, well over the 0.08 percent level at which the law presumes impairment.

Dan Sullivan can be reached at dsullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3321.

Co-worker of Harbour Island Bridge crash victims drops lawsuit against Riverview dentist 10/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 8:06pm]
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