Engineers Aren’t Off the|Hook for Bridge Collapse

     (CN) – Minnesota can seek reimbursement from the designers of the bridge that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100 others, the Minnesota Court of Appeals Court ruled.

     The I-35 West Bridge stretched across the Mississippi River and connected to Minneapolis. Thirteen people died when the bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007, and more than 100 others were injured.
     The appeals court refused to dismiss Minnesota’s claim that Jacobs Engineering, which acquired bridge designer Sverdrup & Parcel and Associates in 1999, must indemnify the state for the accident.
     When it was hired to design the bridge, Sverdrup also agreed to indemnify the state for “any and all claims” stemming from its work.
     The state settled with survivors for more than $37 million, and then sued Jacobs for reimbursement, claiming the bridge’s negligent design contributed to the collapse.
     Jacobs appealed the trial court’s refusal to dismiss the claims, arguing that state laws passed in 2007 to compensate victims of the bridge collapse unconstitutionally interfered with the designer’s 1962 contract with the state.
     But the appellate court also sided with the state, ruling that the claims are not time-barred, and that the retroactive application of the 2007 amendments do not violate Jacobs’ due-process rights.
     “Because the 1962 bridge-design contract provided that Sverdrup would indemnify the state, the compensation statutes passed after the collapse of the bridge do not impair the contract,” Judge Lawrence Stauber Jr. wrote.
     “Because the compensation statutes clearly show the Legislature’s intent to supersede all statutes and the common law, we reject Jacobs’s remaining arguments regarding the state’s claim for reimbursement of payments made under the compensation statutes.”

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