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Lawsuit questions accident victim's claim

TAMPA — No one disputes that two Marriott co-workers died after a speeding car struck them as they walked across a sidewalk along the Harbour Island Bridge.

But the lawyer for the driver is raising another question: Was a third Marriott worker injured by his client?

Lawyers for Matthew R. Moye want a judge to throw out the negligence lawsuit filed against Moye by former Marriott employee Joao Barbosa.

They say a hotel security camera that captured the moments just before the October 2010 crash shows Barbosa nowhere in sight.

"The video proves that plaintiff was never involved in this accident," according to court filings Wednesday by Moye's attorney, Brandon Scheele. "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."

The motion asks a judge to throw out the case based on fraud.

Barbosa, who speaks little English, has said through an interpreter in depositions that he was walking within 6 feet of Douglas Kozar and Kate Kohlier in the moments leading up to the accident.

Police say Moye was speeding on the bridge in a 2001 Cadillac coupe at about 2 a.m. when he hit a curb and spun out of control.

Investigative reports show Moye reached 89 mph seconds just before striking and killing Kozar, 23, and Kohlier, 24. His blood alcohol was 0.13 percent, which exceeds the level at which the state presumes impairment.

Barbosa has said he managed to jump out of the way, injuring his ankle. He was treated at the scene.

Police charged Moye with two counts of vehicular homicide, two counts of DUI manslaughter and one count of driving under the influence with injury. A pretrial conference in the criminal case is scheduled for later this month.

Steve Romine, Moye's lawyer in the criminal case, said he's watching how the civil lawsuit plays out.

He said a blow to the credibility of Barbosa, a police witness, raises questions about the entire case.

"When you discover that evidence relied upon by law enforcement is untrue, then it does raise questions as to everything else in the investigation," he said.

The grainy Marriott video shows only two people on the sidewalk. About 30 seconds later, the video captures a car losing control.

"It appears conclusive to me," Romine said. "It is clear to me, and I think to any reasonable person looking at the video, there's no third person diving out of the way of the car. He's not there."

Mark Cox, a spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office, declined to comment on the civil case.

Barbosa's attorney, Jose Toledo, had not seen a copy of the new court filing and declined to comment on the allegations.

"I can't imagine that to be true," he said. "These are the same folks who alleged the seat belt defense."

Toledo was referring to one of Moye's original affirmative defenses, which said Barbosa — despite being on foot — failed "to use an available operational seat belt."

Scheele, Moye's civil attorney, called the case a tragedy.

"But it's offensive to think someone would inject themselves in an accident when they weren't involved," he said.

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

Lawsuit questions accident victim's claim 09/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 1:18am]
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