Summons and Complaint Filed in 35W Bridge Collapse
Summons and complaint filed against URS Corporation and Progressive Contractors Incorporated, by TSR Injury Law, on behalf of a 35W bridge collapse survivor.
The complaint includes an overview of the disaster:
- On August 1, 2007, the I-35W Bridge (“Bridge”) north of downtown Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River.
- The Bridge collapse was the State’s worst man-made disaster. The Bridge collapse killed 13 people and injured over 145 people.
- The Bridge collapse never should have happened.
- The Bridge collapse was entirely avoidable.
- The Bridge collapse occurred because of the wrongdoing by Defendants URS Corporation and Progressive Contractors Incorporated, both of whom breached duties to the People of the State of Minnesota and the motoring public, including the Plaintiff.
DEFENDANT: URS Corporation (URS)
Defendant URS is a foreign, for-profit, engineering firm with more than 50,000 employees working in approximately 370 offices and job sites in more than 30 different countries. They are licensed to do business in the State of Minnesota. URS represents itself as a “world leader in infrastructure design and engineering”, which is “at the forefront of efforts to restore deteriorating and obsolete infrastructure” (e.g. bridges). Defendant URS held itself as an “expert” in the analysis and remediation of non-redundant truss bridges like the Bridge. Defendant URS even states: “WE BELIEVE THAT EVERY ACCIDENT IS PREVENTABLE.”
DEFENDANT: Progressive Contractors Incorporated (PCI)
Defendant PCI is a Minnesota domestic, for-profit corporation that provides bridge and highway contractor services.
History of the 35W Bridge
The Bridge was built in the early 1960s through contracts issued by the Minnesota Department of Highways (now known as the Minnesota Department of Transportation “Mn/DOT”). The Bridge was a truss bridge composed of connected elements that were stressed from tension and/or compression in response to dynamic loads and forces. The Bridge was also a “non-redundant” and “fracture-critical” bridge, meaning that the entire Bridge could (and did) collapse upon the failure of one critical element.
In 2003, Mn/DOT sought the expert advice of Defendant URS for the purpose of analyzing the Bridge’s integrity and safety and obtaining recommendations to ensure the Bridge’s integrity for the safety of the motoring public.
In that same year, Mn/DOT and Defendant URS entered into a series of contracts whereby URS promised and undertook to fully inspect and evaluate the Bridge’s integrity and safety and make recommendations to ensure the Bridge’s ongoing safety and integrity.
URS, among other things, specifically promised and undertook to:
- Participate in annual inspections of the Bridge;
- Assess the Bridge’s structural condition;
- Perform a structural evaluation of the Bridge’s fracture critical components;
- Inspect the Bridge’s critical components and joints, and monitor joint movements and prepare a report of findings;
- Inspect the Bridge’s critical members, connections and fatigue details;
- Inspect the Bridge’s rolling bearing supports for movement;
- Identify the main superstructure members of the truss-arch spans that were most susceptible to fatigue cracking;
- Evaluate the structural consequences should one of those members fail;
- Determine repair methods for fatigue cracks;
- Identify preferred staging of deck replacement to minimize stresses in the Bridge during such activity;
- Develop tension and compression failure criteria;
- Compute tension compression failure forces for all primary and secondary truss members and connections;
- Provide a final report by May 17, 2005, to the Mn/DOT with recommendations for ensuring the Bridge’s safety and integrity.
Defendant URS knew, or should have known, before August 1, 2007, that:
- The Bridge’s rolling bearing supports were locked or jammed;
- The Bridge could not move laterally as designed because the rolling bearing supports were locked due to corrosion, etc;
- Some of the Bridge’s gusset plates were 1” thick, while others were only ½” thick;
- The disparate size of the gusset plates compromised the Bridge’s safety and integrity;
- The ½-inch gusset plates at “U10” were deformed and buckled;
- The Bridge’s safety and integrity was compromised by deformed and buckled gusset plates;
- Defendant PCI’s work on the Bridge could produce a catastrophic sequence of events due to the effect of increased loads on the already significantly compromised Bridge.
Before August 1, 2007, Defendant URS told the Mn/DOT that:
- The gusset plates at U10 were in “good condition;”
- Gusset plate failure would not be catastrophic;
- The Bridge would last indefinitely with “proper inspection.”
Upon information and belief, as of August 1, 2007, more than three years after Defendant URS began its work and two years and three months beyond the original due date for its analysis and recommendations concerning the Bridge’s safety and integrity, URS had not provided the Mn/DOT with its final analysis and recommendations of the Bridge’s integrity and safety, and did nothing to rectify the known problems with the Bridge.
- On or before August 1, 2007, Defendant PCI, held itself out to the Mn/DOT and the public as an expert in construction and engineering.
- Before August 1, 2007, Defendant PCI began performing a deck-resurfacing project on the Bridge pursuant to its own contract with the Mn/DOT.
- Before August 1, 2007, both URS and PCI chose not to warn anyone of the potentially catastrophic effect of increased loads on the already significantly compromised Bridge.
- On the afternoon of August 1, 2007, approximately two to three hours before the Bridge collapsed, Defendant PCI, without authorization from the Mn/DOT, chose to place more than 500,000 pounds of construction equipment, material and vehicles onto the Bridge directly above the U10 nodes. PCI could have chosen to place the loads off the Bridge less than 1,000 feet away. But, instead, it chose not to. PCI’s choice on the placement of this additional weight played a substantial part in bringing about the Bridge’s collapse and fall of more than 108 feet into the 15-foot-deep Mississippi River.
Count I Negligence against URS
- With its claimed expertise, and in light of its undertakings, promises, and the standard of care, Defendant URS had a duty, responsibility and obligation to make sure the Bridge was in good and safe condition for the use of Minnesotans and others using the Bridge. URS failed in its duties, responsibilities and obligations.
- Defendant URS negligently failed to recognize and/or wrongfully ignored the urgency of the Bridge’s hazardous and compromised condition and failed to fulfill its duties, responsibilities, and promises to the motoring public to ensure the Bridge was safe and in good condition for use by the public.
- Defendant URS violated the applicable standard of care and was negligent in its engineering, analysis, and inspection of the Bridge.
- Defendant URS violated the applicable standard of care and was negligent in failing to warn the People of Minnesota and the Mn/DOT of the substantially compromised and hazardous condition of the Bridge.
- Defendant URS violated the applicable standard of care and was negligent in its inspection and evaluation of the safety and integrity of the Bridge. URS was in other ways negligent.
- Defendant URS’ actions and failure to act were in deliberate disregard of the rights and safety of the motoring public, including Plaintiff.
- Defendant URS’ negligence and violations of the applicable standard of care played a substantial part in bringing about the Bridge’s collapse and the Plaintiff’ resulting injuries and damages.
Count II Negligence against PCI
- Defendant PCI violated the applicable standard of care and was negligent in its performance of its work on the Bridge including, but not limited to, choosing to place large and concentrated loads onto the Bridge and by choosing to do so without authorization or regard to, or analysis of, the potential effects of its choice.
- Defendant PCI’s negligence and violations of the applicable standard of care played a substantial part in bringing about the Bridge’s collapse and Plaintiff’s resulting injuries and damages.