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The San Francisco-based company that consulted on the engineering for the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007 has agreed to a settlement. URS Corp. was sued by more than 100 plaintiffs claiming the company missed warning signs in the bridge before it collapsed during the rush hour commute. Thirteen people died and 145 more were injured.
According to the Associated Press, under the settlement agreement announced August 23, URS Corp has agreed to pay $52.4 to victims of the collapse. The company had defended itself by asserting the URS engineers did not know about a design flaw in the bridge which made it vulnerable to collapse. The trial was slated to begin next spring. By avoiding trial, the company also avoided the possibility of a jury assigning it the punitive damages which the plaintiffs were seeking in the case.
As large as the damages amount under the settlement agreement may seem, it is often the punitive damages that can add up to amounts that could cripple a company. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate plaintiffs for actual injuries such as loss of wages, medical bills and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are awarded when the fact finder (judge or jury) decides the defendant is responsible for serious or malicious wrongdoing and should be economically punished so as to prevent the acts from re-occurring by them, or others.
URS Corp was the last of the major defendants left in the lawsuits stemming from the collapse of I-35W. The state of Minnesota has already paid $37 million from a fund set up in exchange for an end to any potential litigation. Progressive Contractors, the paving company that had been resurfacing the bridge, also reached a settlement last fall with about 130 of the victims and survivors. That company also agreed to pay $1 million to settle the state's claims.
The settlement agreement terms will provide $48.6 million to go to victims and $1.5 million will be set aside for a memorial to those who died in the collapse. URS has also agreed to pay the state of Minnesota $5 million.