Verdicts & Settlements

Big, Big Bucks at Issue in 'Big Dig' Case?

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Attorneys on both sides are still jockeying for position in the so-called Big Dig tort case in Boston. But plaintiff lawyers reportedly could be seeking a settlement in the neighborhood of $500 million in a tort claim over a woman crushed to death when the ceiling of the ill-fated tunnel project collapsed.

In a 15-page report, lawyers for the family of Milena Del Valle say the egregious negligence case could result in a landmark settlement, according to the Boston Globe. The family is represented by Leo V. Boyle, Jeffrey A. Denner and Mario Garcia.

“The lawyers did not specify a price for settling the family’s lawsuit against an array of contracting firms and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority,” the newspaper writes, “but said the case should be compared to those that have produced some of the largest jury awards in US history, including the $450 million in punitive damages awarded to the widow of a sheriff-elect in Georgia assassinated by his rival in 2000. If anything, the lawyers predicted, a Massachusetts jury would award the Del Valle family even more money.”

Punitive damages that would ratchet up a jury award to this level are unheard-of in Massachusetts, but could conceivably be awarded in a truly egregious case. The collapse, allegedly caused by possibly faulty design and poor construction–which reportedly resulted in obvious failure of part of the ceiling prior to the accident–has spawned gargantuan litigation among the 17 companies concerned. Some 100 lawyers and dozens of engineers are involved, the Globe reported in an earlier story, and there is also an unresolved criminal investigation.

Del Valle, 39, was a passenger in the car her husband, Angel, 51, was driving on Interstate 90 last summer when the tunnel ceiling collapsed on them. He survived, with injuries, but she died at the scene, AP reports.

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