Last outstanding FIU bridge collapse lawsuit scheduled for trial in January

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Federal investigators, including NTSB’s Adrienne Lamm, an NTSB materials engineer in the Materials Laboratory Division of the Office of Research and Engineering, examine the debris from the FIU campus bridge collapse. (NTSB Photo by Chris O’Neil)

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The last outstanding lawsuit relating to the deadly March, 2018 bridge collapse at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami is scheduled to go to trial in January.

Meanwhile, prosecutors say they have still not determined whether anyone should be charged criminally for the collapse of the unfinished pedestrian structure that killed six people in cars below the bridge stopped for a red light, The Miami Herald reports.

A civil court judge has scheduled the Jan. 10 trial for the Louis Berger Group (LBG), a global engineering firm that had been hired to independently review the bridge design, never noting a fatal design flaw. LBG is now part of WSP

The Herald reports that Berger approved the design plan a little more than one year before the collapse. The widow of Brandon Brownfield, a motorist killed when the bridge collapsed atop his truck, is seeking compensatory damages from Berger.

“In a ruling last week, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey also ruled that Chelsea Brownfield’s attorneys can ask a jury for punitive damages — which could dramatically increase the amount of money the family gets if it wins at trial,” The Herald reported on Oct. 12.

“Punitive damages will punish the defendant for wrongful conduct: recklessly taking a job he didn’t have the credentials for, and to deter others from doing the same thing,” attorney Paul Layne, of Coral Gables’ Silva & Silva, which represents the family, told the newspaper.

The collapse set off a complicated federal investigation and several lawsuits against participants in the construction project including contractor Magnum Construction Management (MCM) and bridge designer FIGG Bridge Group.

The National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) determined that  the “catastrophic failure” stemmed from a flawed design with “significant errors.”

The Herald reports that “the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade police homicide bureau have been finishing the probe, to determine whether the failure to close the road constitutes criminal negligence.”

“There are still ongoing matters which may impact our FIU bridge collapse investigation, including pending civil case litigation and potential administrative reviews. As this remains an active investigation, we are not yet at liberty to release any information regarding the direction of this investigation or any final conclusions,” Florida Attorney General’s office spokesman Ed Griffith was reported as saying.

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