FIU Bridge Victims Would Share in $103 Million Settlement

Twenty-six companies being sued in connection with their role in the doomed FIU pedestrian bridge project have agreed to contribute a total of nearly $103 million to settle bodily injury claims to the families of six people who died and 15 who were injured in the March 2018 bridge collapse, according to a proposed settlement agreement filed Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Miami.

The agreement, which is subject to objections and must ultimately be approved by the bankruptcy court, is part of a reorganization plan submitted by MCM, the general contractor on the project.

Only one of the companies being sued in state court for wrongful death and personal injury, the Louis Berger engineering firm, has declined to join in the settlement agreement.

Louis Berger, which the NTSB determined failed to properly review and catch fatal errors in bridge design plans created by FIGG Bridge Engineers, has resolved three of the death claims on its own, its attorney told a state court judge Wednesday. But it continues "to litigate with certain parties that we don't see eye to eye (with), either on their damages or on their allocation of what they perceive to be Louis Berger's responsibility," the firm's attorney said in court.

MCM, formerly Munilla Construction Management, a firm owned by the politically prominent Munilla family, is seeking to reorganize in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In a statement to NBC 6 Thursday, the firm said, "Our prayers continue to be with those who were impacted by the bridge's failure." The plan, "if approved, will provide some closure to those affected by the FIU Bridge Collapse. Among other things, the Plan provides for the contribution of $102,751,000 to a trust for the benefit of the Bridge Collapse Bodily Injury Claimants. The plan of reorganization also provides for a comprehensive restructuring of MCM's liabilities and its emergence from bankruptcy."

"MCM intends to pursue expedited approval of the plan with the aim of making distributions to Bridge Collapse Bodily Injury Claimants and other stakeholders prior to December 31, 2019," the statement said.

As part of that fast-track effort, the bankruptcy court has granted MCM's motion for an emergency hearing Friday afternoon, seeking conditional approval of the plan and shortening the normal time that creditors and other parties are given to object to such a proposed reorganization.

Five people in vehicles and one worker died on March 15, 2018 when the bridge collapsed as workers were carrying out FIGG's orders to re-tension steel bars that ran through a truss that started to fail five days earlier, when the bridge was placed on a pier and pylon over SW Eighth Street. In its defense, FIGG blames MCM for failing to construct the bridge in the manner the plans called for.

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