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Friday, May 9, 2008

NTSB to I-35W bridge lawyers: Ain't nothing gonna' break our stride

Here's an interesting little tidbit from a story Minnesota Lawyer has posted about where the enactment of the I-35W bridge victims' fund leaves their litigation ...

The potential third-party defendants most often mentioned in the case are URS Corp., which inspected the bridge between 2004 and 2007, and PSA, the company that was working on the bridge when it collapsed.

If either or both of these companies are ultimately determined to be more culpable than the state for the bridge collapse, both the victims and the state will look to them for compensation. So, despite their recent success in the Legislature, the victims’ lawyers are continuing their preparation for trial. However, there is one big glitch.

“We’re waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to graciously allow us to see the evidence,” said Minneapolis attorney Chris Messerly, who is representing some of the bridge-collapse victims pro bono. Noting that the board refused to hold a public hearing to discuss its conclusions on the bridge, Messerly added his own editorial comment: “Obviously they are afraid of something.”

Meanwhile, the NTSB has issued preliminary findings that point to a design flaw with beam-connecting gusset plates and heavy loads of construction equipment and material on vulnerable parts of the bridge. It has said that a public hearing would slow down the investigation.

Hmmm. Yes, I suppose things do tend to move faster when the opportunity for public input is removed. Phew! It's a good thing that federal agencies working on disaster sites have never been known to mess up ...

Last month, Rep. Jim Oberstar called the NTSB to task for its failure to hold a hearing. So far, the NTSB has spurned Oberstar's hearing demand. The agency's recalcitrance will make it difficult on trial lawyers trying to determine which, if any, of the potential third-party defendants their clients should consider suing. It's a terrible way of doing things that wastes the time of the victims, their lawyers, the court system and "innocent" companies needlessly subjected to the litigation process for the sole reason that the NTSB delays in releasing the evidence that would have exonerated them.

1 comment:

bobby said...

They want another hearing? But the Legislature already did all the factfinding they thought necessary, remember? They looked around, and figured out exactly what happened, and then they took care of the problem.

It was Carol Molnau. She knocked it down. Ms. Kelliher told me so.

So they voted to lay the blame on her, and then, in celebration of their acumen and their problem-solving expertise, they took a pile of money out of "bridge repair" and built more bike paths up by Senator Oberstar's voters' . . . er, I mean constituents' . . . homes.

And I feel safer already.