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FIU Bridge Builder to Pay $42M to Families

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

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The construction company responsible for building the Florida International University bridge, which collapsed a little over a year ago, has reached an agreement with insurers to pay up to $42 million to victims of the incident, as well as their families.

Magnum Construction Management, formerly known as Munilla Construction Management, filed for bankruptcy in early March. The Chapter 11 “plan of reorganization” allows companies to negotiate with creditors while executing reorganization initiatives with plans to resume business operations as normal. The recent agreement reached with insurance companies, filed with federal bankruptcy court at the end of last month, has yet to be approved by a judge, however.

What Happened

FIU is home to the Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center, a multi-university center promoting ABC techniques. The pedestrian bridge was touted as an example of innovative design and construction meant to limit road closures and inconvenience stemming from the otherwise lengthy bridge construction process.

According to CNN, shortly after the span was installed, W. Denney Pate, an engineer with bridge firm FIGG, which was part of the design-construction team, noticed there was an issue—a crack had formed along the north side of the bridge, and repairs were needed.

National Transportation Safety Board, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The construction company responsible for building the Florida International University bridge, which collapsed a little over a year ago, has reached an agreement with its insurers to pay up to $42 million to victims of the incident, as well as their families.

In early May of last year, the Miami Herald sued after two months of attempts to access documents related to the collapse, and in early June, the Florida Department of Transportation asked a County Circuit Court judge to dismiss the suit. The newspaper said the agency acknowledged that the records fell under the state’s open-records law, but FDOT argued that their pertinence to the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation meant they could not be released publicly.

In August, Leon County state court Judge Kevin Carroll ruled that FDOT must release the records associated with the tragedy. A federal judge, though, quickly stepped in and blocked the release of the documents. In September, a preliminary report from the NSTB indicated that cracks found in the bridge a few days before it collapsed were much more extensive than originally thought. Also in September, it came to light that 26 threaded steel rods—the kind being tightened on the bridge at the time of the collapse—were melted down after being removed from the site.

In mid-April, after MCM had filed for bankruptcy, lawyers presented documents alleging that engineers dismissed cracks found in the bridge prior to the disaster.

Payment Agreement

According to the Miami Herald, the NTSB has yet to issue a final verdict on what caused the disaster. Preliminary findings indicate design flaws, not necessarily construction mistakes. MCM was responsible for the construction of the bridge, not designing it, however.

As the case moves forward, more money will likely be made available. More than 20 other defendants are being sued by those connected to the disaster, and each will have to broker their own deals with insurers.

Alan Goldfarb, an attorney representing the family of Alexa Duran, an FIU student killed during the bridge collapse, noted that he hoped this was the first step in the families getting closure. He also called the court case “a second punishment.”

An MCM spokesperson did not respond to the Miami Herald’s request for comment.

   

Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Bridges; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

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