All but one company being sued by victims' families and survivors of the March 15, 2018, Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse have reached financial settlements, the Miami Herald reported. The holdout is engineering firm Louis Berger, the independent consultant hired to verify the bridge's integrity and design by FIGG, the project engineer. The collapse killed six and injured at least eight people.
Twenty-three companies have settled, including FIGG and general contractor Magnum Construction Management (MCM), formerly known as Munilla Construction Management. The settlement amounts, which are confidential, will be added to the $42 million total that MCM's insurers have agreed to provide.
The settlements have to be finalized as part of MCM's bankruptcy case. But if Berger refuses to settle, the attorney for one plaintiff said the plaintiffs' payouts could be delayed by more than a year.
Berger was one of the contractors lambasted in a report about the bridge collapse that OSHA's Office of Engineering Services (OES) published in June.
The Florida DOT requires that certain bridge structures be reviewed by an independent engineer at 30%, 60%, 90% and final completion. However, Berger told OES that FIGG had hired it only to conduct a final inspection. OES went as far as to say that if Berger had made inspections at the prescribed intervals, it is possible that the collapse could have been avoided.
But the criticism was not reserved for Berger. The agency also said that because Berger was not conducting incremental inspections and providing the associated peer reviews, FIGG should have taken extra steps to verify that its design was sound.
The OES laid most of the blame for the collapse at FIGG's doorstep, calling out the engineering firm for not recognizing that expanding cracks in the bridge made it unstable and for failure to shore up the structure and shut down traffic flow underneath. In fact, OES said FIGG not only failed to take those measures but directed crews to re-tension the bridge's post-tensioning bars, which is what was happening when the span fell onto cars waiting at a traffic light underneath.
Although OSHA has weighed in, the industry is still awaiting for the National Transportation Safety Board's final report as to what it believes caused the collapse. Its last investigation update was issued in November 2018, and the agency's interim, preliminary finding was that design played a major role.