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Minnesota I-35W Bridge Collapse: New Wave of Lawsuits

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By David Goguen on June 18, 2009 8:34 AM

Dozens of lawsuits being filed this week over the 2007 Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis represent the largest wave of litigation yet over the tragedy. The claims have been filed against two companies that played a role in the inspection and repair of the bridge.

The August 1, 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis killed 13 people and injured 145 more. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, this week's suits -- filed on behalf of almost 80 victims, survivors, and family members -- accuse two companies of wrongdoing in connection with the collapse:

  • URS Corp., an engineering company that had inspected the bridge at the behest of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
  • Progressive Contractors Inc., a St. Michael, MN construction company that was performing repairing work on the bridge at the time of the collapse.

The Star-Tribune says the lawsuits seek an unspecified amount of money damages, and allege that both companies "breached duties to the people of the state of Minnesota and the motoring public."

In May 2008, Minnesota legislators created a $38 million compensation fund for victims of the collapse. The plan set up an initial $24 million fund which capped payments at $400,000 per individual, and a second $12 million was set aside for claims by victims who were "extraordinarily impacted" by the collapse.

A 2008 National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that the bridge collapse was caused by inadequate load capacity due to a design error involving the bridge's steel plates. The NTSB found that the plates "failed under a combination of (1) substantial increases in the weight of the bridge, which resulted from previous modifications, and (2) the traffic and concentrated construction loads on the bridge on the day of the accident." See a November 2008 NTSB Press Release on the I-35W Bridge Collapse.

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