The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge by Jacobs Engineering Group to Minnesota's attempt to collect millions of dollars from the company to fund payouts made to victims of the 2007 I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Jacobs Engineering Group v. Minnesota was among more than 150 cases that, on May 29, the court said it would not hear. The court gave no reasons for denying the requests.
The bridge was designed in the 1960s by Sverdrup & Parcel & Associates, which Jacobs acquired in 1999. The span's collapse killed 13 and injured 145.
The Associated General Contractors and other industry groups filed a brief supporting Jacobs' request for a hearing. The brief noted the importance of statutes of limitations and repose in preventing lawsuits against construction industry companies years after projects have been completed.
Mike Kennedy, AGC general counsel, says, "We think the practical consequences of permitting the states freely to carve out retroactive exceptions to their statutes of repose would be dramatic."
The court's decision not to hear the case could lead to a ruling that would require Jacobs to pay out tens of millions of dollars.
Like most states, Minnesota has statutes of repose setting time limits on when design and construction firms may be sued over their projects. After the bridge collapsed, companies that had worked on it were swept into legal claims, including URS Corp., which had inspected the bridge for four years, and PCI Corp., which began doing maintenance on it in 2007.
Minnesota agreed to pay survivor claims totaling some $40 million, but lawmakers passed a bill allowing the state to seek reimbursement from third parties deemed to have contributed to the collapse.
A spokesperson for Jacobs declined to comment.