Lawsuits against consultant URS and contractor Progressive Contracting Inc (PCI) over the fatal collapse of the I35-w bridge in Minneapolis in August 2007 were filed last week by victims of the collapse.
Last week, 79 lawsuits on behalf of 93 people were started against URS and PCI, with the trial likely to be held next year.
URS was Minnesota State’s checking engineer for the bridge and PCI was carrying out resurfacing and joint replacement work on the bridge at the time of collapse in August 2007, which killed 13 people and injured 145 (NCE 9/16 August 2007).
Official investigations by the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed an inadequately designed gusset plate for the collapse (NCE 19 November 2008). But consultant Thornton Tomasetti working for the collapse victims has claimed that the fracture of a key gusset plate was not the sole cause of the collapse.
Victims representative and Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi lawyer Chris Messerly, said Thornton Tomasetti had concluded that a chord on the bridge had buckled because of heat stress.
“There were a number of key factors that occurred on that day to initiate this failure,” said Messerly. “First, the roller bearings, which allow the bridge to expand and contract on the piers during our broad temperature swings of over 100°[Fareneheit], were rusted solid and would not move. As a result, the members were under tremendous stress. “Also, the construction company working on the bridge chose to pile its construction materials on the bridge. “All of these things led to the greatest man-made disaster in our state’s history.” “We will now seek justice for our clients against the engineering firm (URS) our state had hired before the collapse to ensure the bridge was safe,” said Messerly.
“They knew the roller bearings were frozen – it is in their own report. They knew that some of the half inch gusset plates were bent. We have pictures they took. They knew that the bridge design was obsolete and had no redundancy. Also, the weight placed on the bridge by the construction company (PCI) unquestionably substantially contributed to this catastrophe. “The reason it took Thornton Tomasetti so long to reach its conclusion is because it was not until very recently that our government (the NTSB) allowed it to see the final pieces of evidence.” URS and PCI were unavailable for comment as NCE went to press.