Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Dig Settlement Nearer

The Boston Globe has an article today suggesting that the eventual settlement in the Big Dig lawsuits could be "huge."

"Once that jury has spoken, each defendant found responsible will bear a 'scarlet letter' likely to mark them permanently for reckless and grossly negligent conduct," warned the Del Valle lawyers Jeffrey A. Denner, Mario Garcia, and Leo V. Boyle in urging the defendants to settle the case before it goes to a jury.

The article also contains some of the factual allegations on which the plaintiffs rely in predicting huge punitive damages.  If proved, the predictions seem not unreasonable:

For instance, documents show that Big Dig managers at Bechtel/ Parsons Brinckerhoff and designers from Gannett Fleming cut by half the number of bolts they originally planned to use to hold up the ceiling, while significantly increasing the ceiling's weight by making it out of concrete. These moves made the ceiling cheaper, the lawyers said, but less safe.

When construction began in June 1999, workers for Modern Continental Construction Co. made numerous mistakes installing the ceiling bolts, secured to the tunnel roof by epoxy, that weakened their strength, the lawyers wrote. In addition, crews may have used the wrong epoxy, a fast-setting type that has 25 percent less strength than specified for the job.

--BC

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tortsprof/2007/06/big-dig-settlem.html

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» Big Dig tunnel collapse from Overlawyered
No doubt: someone was negligent in the collapse of the Big Dig tunnel in Boston that killed one. The Latin phrase res ipsa loquitur comes to mind. But it's hard to understand why Massachusetts officials... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 8, 2007 7:23:16 PM

Comments

"For instance, documents show that Big Dig managers at Bechtel/ Parsons Brinckerhoff and designers from Gannett Fleming cut by half the number of bolts they originally planned to use to hold up the ceiling, while significantly increasing the ceiling's weight by making it out of concrete."

This is the wrong question: it sounds suspiciously like the use of a single document taken out of context of a normal design-planning process. (Is strict liability plus punitive damages to be imposed every time a design firm doesn't adopt the most stringent and expensive design it considers?) The correct question is whether the actual design, implemented correctly, would have safely stayed up. If so, the design team didn't act negligently if the failure was because of faulty installation; it is a question of mathematics that should be resolved in one direction or the other on summary judgment.

Posted by: Ted | Jun 27, 2007 5:49:24 AM

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