Multinational engineering giant URS Corp. has agreed to pay $52.4 million to resolve the last major lawsuit over the August 2007 collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, which killed 13 people and injured more than 150 others.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” Chris Messerly, a partner with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP, told PaintSquare News. His firm recruited 16 others to handle the cases pro bono as a consortium.
URS admitted no wrongdoing or liability in the settlement. The company had been hired by the state for the bridge project.
The full settlement consists of:
- More than $40 million payable to 103 plaintiffs represented by the pro bono consortium;
- About $7.6 million to approximately 30 other plaintiffs represented by a separate law firm;
- About $2.2 million to reimburse medical and other payments by insurance companies in the case; and
- $1.5 million to build a memorial at the site.
The settlement, announced last week, concluded the last major legal chapter in the disaster.
In May 2008, the state of Minnesota passed legislation that created a 911-like $37 million compensation fund for the bridge victims and survivors. That was followed by civil suits against URS and PCI Corp., a construction company that was resurfacing the bridge at the time of the collapse.
PCI had left rocks and other construction materials on the bridge that day. Attorneys said the materials weighed more than a 747 jet airliner. PCI settled its claims for $10.1 million in October 2009.
Messerly said the URS settlement would be "a much swifter resolution than facing a jury trial” and would help bring “closure” to the victims’ families. “While this catastrophe changed their lives and our state forever, we are confident that everyone—from the state to the responsible parties—did everything possible to make it right for them.”
A statement issued by San Francisco-based URS said in part:
"URS has reached an agreement that fully resolves the plaintiffs' legal claims against the Company with no admission of liability or fault by URS. The I-35W bridge collapse was a tragedy, which the National Transportation Safety Board concluded was caused by a design flaw, compounded by large weight increases from upgrade projects over the years, and the traffic and construction loads on the day the bridge collapsed. URS was not involved in the design or building of the bridge, nor was it involved in any of the later construction work, including the resurfacing work being done when the bridge collapsed.”