Big Dig Litigation Update

I’ve written a couple of times (here and here) about the possibility of litigation arising from last July’s collapse of a portion of the ceiling of the Ted Williams Tunnel. To date the litigation includes a civil suit for negligence filed by the family of Milena del Valle, who was killed in the collapse, and the specter of criminal charges for negligent homicide and fraud. The Boston Globe reported recently that the legal actions involve–so far–over “100 attorneys, 17 companies, and dozens of engineers and workers.” The various defendants have filed 172 cross-claims against each other seeking indemnification for any civil damages. A Globe graphic captures these cross-claims in a Death Star, a colorful spider’s web of liability. What it likely means is years of courtroom maneuvering, tens of millions of dollars in legal fees, the sacrifice of thousands of trees, and a long wait for answers on how this stupendously expensive project could go so wrong.

8 Replies to “Big Dig Litigation Update”

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  5. vee87

    I agree with student330’s comment about every party having a way to cover its liability; the web clearly shows that every party believes that other parties (not itself) are liable. It seems like a “don’t-blame-me” situation among all the parties involved and redirects the focus of the situation to just escaping blame.

    It is sad to hear that (from the article in the Boston Globe) “[t]he price of so much courtroom wrangling, legal analysts say, could be long delays in getting a financial settlement for the three children and widower of Del Valle, people of modest means originally from Costa Rica.” While all the parties involved are busy trying to figure out who to blame, the victim’s family is left with a complicated lawsuit, no compensation, and no expectation of that compensation for a long time. I think that the courts should focus on strictly the family’s lawsuit first. The state should pay the family the compensation, then focus on finding out which parties are liable. The liable parties should then pay back the state for both the family and state’s lawsuits.

  6. student330

    I feel that having so many legal proceedings over one issue is both wasteful and unnecessary. The colorful web by the Boston Globe hyperlinked in this blog is absolutely amazing in its scope and supports my assertion. It seems that every party involved in this Big Dig accident has found some way to cover up its liability. This situation reflects the paranoia companies have in the United States over lawsuits and civil claims. The only people I see actually benefitting from this case are the one hundred or so attorneys, whereas the only two parties that should receive compensation are the family of Milena del Valle and the state. Milena’s family should receive compensation from both the state and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff because of their negligence. The state should then turn and sue Bechtel/Parsons Brinckeroff again for not testing the bolts according to industry practice in order to save money.

    For such an important project, B/P Brinckerhoff had no right to be lazy while testing the bolts. Testing bolts required to hold a weight of 2,600 pounds with 3,250 pounds of pressure does not seem adequate, even though I am not an engineering student. In such a heavily trafficked location, such poor testing requirements are grossly deficient. In a previous “AFC” entry, it says that a “consulting engineer interviewed for the Globe article stated that the rule of thumb was to test bolts at twice their carrying load–in this case, 5,200 pounds.” The same blog entry also states: “Bolts anchoring the ceiling in the tunnel’s high-occupancy vehicle lane, built at the same time, were tested using a force of 6,350 pounds.* Current standards would require testing the bolts using between 10,000-15,000 pounds of force.” It is obvious from these statements that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff did not follow industry standards when testing the bolts. Since the test, supposedly taken from a Portuguese contractor, did not even apply to concrete roofs, it shows even more negligence on the construction manager’s part. As a construction manager, B/P Brinckeroff had open access to industry knowledge and the responsibility to adequately test the bolts that were used in the project. Failure to do so resulted in a death that they should be held accountable for. As for criminal charges, I do not know that these are necessary.

    It isn’t startling that the construction managers still will not take the blame for their obvious negligence. In a Boston Globe article cited in a previous blog entry on “AFC” the construction managers blame a construction adhesive manufacturing company named Newman, Renner, Colony Inc. for supplying faulty epoxy for the bolts. By claiming that the epoxy was faulty, the construction managers hope to weasel their way out of the negligence suit filed against them. This is sadly the nature of lawsuits and court filings, and is reflected in the web of suits filed in the linked web above.

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