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Firm Refusing to Settle in FIU Case

Friday, August 16, 2019

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Companies being sued in light of the bridge collapse at Florida International University, which occurred roughly a year and a half ago, have decided to settle, though one last holdout could delay the disbursement of funds to the victims.

The remaining company that is currently not opting to settle is independent consultant Louis Berger. The consultant was hired by FIGG to verify the bridge’s design. To date, 23 companies have otherwise settled.

FIU Bridge Collapse

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, employed with 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

Companies being sued in light of the bridge collapse at Florida International University, which occurred roughly a year and a half ago, have decided to settle, though one last holdout could delay the disbursement of funds to victims.

In early May 2018, 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 its 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 NTSB 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 April, after MCM filed for bankruptcy, lawyers presented documents alleging that engineers dismissed cracks found in the bridge prior to the disaster. The following month, the construction company responsible for building the FIU bridge reached an agreement with insurers to pay up to $42 million to victims of the incident, as well as their families.

In June, in the 115-page report, federal work-safety investigators determined that the street that ran under the bridge should have been shut down because of cracks in the structure. Parties involved failed to recognize the danger due to design errors. Later that same month, the project’s lead technical designer testified during a pretrial hearing regarding evidence. This was the first time he had commented since the tragedy.

Financial Settlement Holdout

According to the Miami Herald, the NTSB is still conducting its own investigation into the incident. If Berger and concerned parties cannot reach an agreement, funding from the suits might not get disbursed for another year and a half. Further settlements will add to the $42 million MCM agreement.

“If Louis Berger had checked the design at Stage 3, it could have discovered structural deficiencies in the design, and this incident could have been prevented,“ OSHA said.

According to the Engineering News-Record, FDOT requires that peer review be completed by a separate firm. ENR also reports that the FDOT verbiage covers requirements including “constructability” and “compatibility of construction phasing with Traffic Control," but not “interim phases of construction” or “construction loads.”

The next hearing is Aug. 20. Louis Berger declined to comment to the Herald.

   

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

Comment from john lienert, (8/16/2019, 5:49 AM)

" I didn't do nuthin!".....EXACTLY......didn't do your job, and people DIED. send Berger to prison......people DIED


Comment from Mark Taylor, (8/16/2019, 8:40 AM)

I don't care what techniques they come up with the human factor will always make building bridges over active roadways a fools ploy. People are lazy, corrupt and complacent. Until we can invent a perfect human, no bridge building over active roads should take place.


Comment from Tony Rangus, (8/16/2019, 11:30 AM)

Mr. Berger, did you perform a design review at Stage 3? Yes I did but my wife washed my overalls where I had stored the report.


Comment from John Ducote, (8/16/2019, 11:48 AM)

This is unbelievable 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". This sure sounds like criminal obstruction of justice to me. It is one thing for them to be inadvertently disposed of, but to be melted down? That sounds like a deliberate act, sounds like intentional destructin of evidence..


Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (8/17/2019, 11:43 AM)

What a tangled web we weave when we parctive to deceive.


Comment from C Frederik, (8/17/2019, 9:34 PM)

Not only is there the deal with the rods, but the cell phone was accidentally run through the washing machine - pate needs to have his license revoked


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