Report: Settlement Talks Begin in Big Dig Wrongful Death Suit

June 26, 2007

Settlement talks are planned this week in the lawsuit brought by the family of a Massachusetts motorist killed nearly a year ago by falling ceiling panels in a tunnel in Boston’s Big Dig, according to a published report Sunday.

Lawyers for Milena Del Valle’s family will discuss a possible settlement with lawyers representing the companies that designed and built the Big Dig, The Boston Sunday Globe reported, citing unidentified sources.

Del Valle’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last August, naming the Turnpike Authority and companies associated with design and construction of the project. The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount in damages.

The 39-year-old was killed July 10 when several concrete ceiling panels fell from the Interstate 90 connector tunnel as she and her husband drove toward Logan Airport.

Inspectors believe bolts that held ceiling panels in place came loose because of failures in the epoxy resin designed to glue them in place. Repairs were made throughout the Big Dig tunnel system. Panels were reinforced with additional bolts and brackets.

Lawyers on both sides of the lawsuit would not publicly discuss the settlement talks, the newspaper reported.

In addition to the Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig project, defendants include: Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the project manager; and Modern Continental Construction Co., the company that constructed the I-90 connector ceiling, and several other companies.

Meanwhile, both sides are watching Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has set a June 30 deadline to decide whether to bring criminal charges against those same companies.

The $14.798 billion Big Dig, the costliest public works project in U.S. history, replaced the aging above-ground Central Artery with a series of traffic tunnels.

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