Court frees design firm from one of two bridge claims

  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: August 24, 2010 - 10:46 PM

A design firm that tried to shield itself from lawsuits over a deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse has been dismissed from one company's claim but still faces litigation from the state, Minnesota's Court of Appeals ruled in separate opinions Tuesday.

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., had argued that it was not liable in the 2007 tragedy in part because too much time had passed since the Interstate 35W bridge was built in the 1960s. Jacobs argued that a state law put a 10-year limit on liability even for structures meant to last a century.

A three-judge panel of the Appeals Court agreed in dismissing claims filed by engineering firm URS Corp. but allowed the state's claims to go forward.

The Appeals Court judges wrote that changes made to state law in 2007 -- months before the bridge collapsed -- made claims like the state's retroactive "indefinitely into the past." The judges also noted that the state's 1962 contract with Jacobs' predecessor company protected it against any losses arising from the work.

But in the URS case, the judges agreed with Jacobs' argument that it does not share any liability with the San Francisco-based engineering firm that was hired to do consulting work on the bridge.

URS, which has agreed to pay $52.4 million to settle claims from the collapse, said it was disappointed by Tuesday's ruling and was considering whether to appeal further.

Neither an attorney for Jacobs nor a company official immediately returned messages seeking comment.


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