The last holdout among several companies Minnesota sued over the Interstate 35W bridge collapse has paid an $8.9 million settlement, effectively ending the state's legal battle to recover some of the money it paid victims of the 2007 disaster.
A final check from California-based Jacobs Engineering Group arrived Tuesday, completing terms of a settlement signed in October and ending the state's litigation over the accident, according to Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) spokeswoman Chris Joyce.
Jacobs Engineering had acquired the successor of the company that designed the bridge more than 40 years before it collapsed into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145.
Neither Jacobs Engineering nor an attorney who represented it locally responded late Tuesday to requests for comment.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the bridge collapsed in large part because gusset plates holding parts of it together were half as thick as they should have been, though excessive weight from a road project also was cited.
The state's liability for not detecting the design flaws and other problems could have been capped at a total of $1 million for all claims, but the Legislature set up a special fund from which it paid victims of the collapse a total of $36.6 million. Then the state filed suit against several firms associated with the bridge's construction and maintenance to try to recover some of what the state had paid victims.
Though a state law is on the books limiting liability to 15 years for such projects, the Legislature also passed a provision after the collapse to extend that window on the grounds that it was a "catastrophe of historic proportions."
URS Corp., a global engineering firm that had inspected the bridge for MnDOT, eventually paid the state a $5 million settlement. Progressive Contractors Inc., which had placed many tons of heavy equipment and materials on the bridge before its collapse, eventually paid a $1 million settlement.
URS and Progressive also paid settlements directly to victims, including more than $50 million from URS.
Jacobs Engineering repeatedly argued in court that too much time has passed for it to be held liable. The firm appealed rejections of that claim all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in May declined to hear the company's appeal.
The seven-page settlement agreement between Jacobs Engineering and the state said that all the state's collapse-related suits, which had been consolidated into one file in Hennepin County District Court, had been either resolved through settlement or dismissed, save for the one against Jacobs.
As part of the settlement, the firm admitted no liability for the collapse.
"It is understood that this settlement is intended merely to avoid protracted litigation and the costs, expenses and dislocation associated with such litigation," the document said.
The firm had acquired the corporate successor to Sverdrup & Parcel and Associates Inc., which the state hired in 1962 to design "Minnesota Bridge No. 9340."
Larry Oakes • 612-673-1751