I-35W BRIDGE LAWSUIT SETTLED
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA (August 23, 2010) – Today attorneys representing the victims of the August 1, 2007 I-35W Bridge Collapse announced that a final settlement was reached in the lawsuit against URS Corporation, the international engineering firm which had responsibility for inspecting the I-35W Bridge before its collapse.
Thirteen people died and 145 were injured in the I-35W Bridge Collapse.
Minneapolis attorney Jim Schwebel
stated that URS Corporation agreed to pay $52,400,000.00 in settlement, $48,631,450.00 of which will be paid to the victims.
Insurance companies that paid workers’ compensation and property damage loses will be reimbursed $2,268,000.00 from the settlement and1.5 million will be contributed to fund the I-35W “Remembrance Garden”, a permanent memorial to those who lost their lives in the collapse.
URS Corporation was the last of the defendants to achieve a settlement with the 35W Bridge victims. In 2008 the State of Minnesota, through Special Legislation, appropriated $36,640,000.00 for the victims. The construction company which was engaged in resurfacing the bridge at the time of its collapse, PCI Corporation, paid $10,150,000.00 in settlement in 2009.
Pending before Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund at the time of the URS settlement was the Plaintiffs’ Motion to Amend its Complaint to allow the jury to consider a punitive damages award, in addition to compensatory damages against URS Corporation. Punitive damages are allowed in addition to compensatory damages when a jury determines that a defendant’s acts were “in deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others”. Minneapolis attorney Jim Schwebel
, representing 34 of the victims stated his belief that “URS Corporation’s concern over the potential of punitive damages was a factor in bringing about this settlement at this time”.
Schwebel stated “While no amount of money can compensate the victims for their losses, it is gratifying to achieve a settlement that will allow for payment of their medical expenses, reimbursement of their lost income, and provide some measure of financial security to their lives”.
The Herculean effort put forward by the lawyers representing the I-35W victims included two and a half years of depositions, review of millions of pages of documents, and extensive analysis of the bridge failure by some of the world’s leading bridge experts.
Schwebel stated “Finally the innocent victims have achieved closure in their monumental battle for compensation against one of the world’s largest engineering corporations. We are also confident that URS Corporation, when examining steel truss bridges will now pay much more attention to the significance of buckled gusset plates and frozen roller bearings than it had in the past”.
The victims are profoundly grateful to Judge Deborah Hedlund who spent 14 hours last Saturday hammering out the final terms of the URS settlement. Judge Hedlund also ruled that despite the sums received from the State of Minnesota, PCI Corporation and URS Corporation, the I-35W Bridge victims were still “less than fully compensated for all of their losses”.
The only aspect of the I-35W Bridge litigation which remains unsettled are the claims being made by the State of Minnesota and by URS Corporation against Jacobs Engineering, the successor engineering firm to Sverdrup & Parcel & Associates, Inc., the firm which designed the bridge in 1960. That is scheduled to go to trial in April, 2011.