Government Law

Victims Seek 9/11-Style Fund in Bridge Case

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Victims injured by a Minneapolis bridge collapse earlier this year are asking the government to establish a 9/11-style compensation fund to cover their medical expenses and pay a currently unspecified capped amount of damages. In exchange, they would agree not to sue over their injuries.

The fund, which would be modeled after the one created by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, would cover medical expenses that could exceed $1 million for some victims. At this point, however, state legislators are starting the process, listening to victims’ concerns today in the first public hearing on the bridge collapse. Unless a special legislative session is called, a bill to create a compensation fund would not be introduced until February, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Associated Press.

Absent such compensation legislation, Minnesota law limits state liability to $300,000 per person and $1 million per incident, the news agency states. The collapse of the Interstate 35 west bridge on Aug. 1 killed 13 and injured more than 100 people.

However, the newspaper reports that state Rep. Ryan Winkler, who plans to introduce a compensation bill, says legislators essentially have two choices: “We can be in the posture of defending litigation from these survivors … or we can establish some sort of fund or some sort of mechanism to get swift and certain compensation to these individuals.”

As discussed in a previous post, although sovereign immunity limits the amount that could be collected from state and federal government entities for any liability that might be proven concerning the bridge’s collapse, private contractors also are potential defendants.

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