AG asked federal court to return bridge collapse lawsuit to Oklahoma

Tuesday, July 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's attorney general asked a federal court on Monday to send a lawsuit over the fatal bridge collapse on Interstate 40 to an Oklahoma state court.

Last month, Attorney General Drew Edmondson and families of victims of the bridge collapse sued Magnolia Marine Transport Co., Ergon Inc., and towboat pilot Joe Dedmon, claiming negligence.

Defendants succeeded last month in having the case moved to federal court in Mississippi, seeking to limit liability under maritime law.

Edmondson said his latest filing with the federal district court in Muskogee argues that Muskogee County District Court is the proper venue for the case.

Edmondson said the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars a federal court from exercising jurisdiction over a state when that state has not consented to that jurisdiction.

Magnolia Marine of Vicksburg, Miss., owns and operates the towboat that was involved in the collision that caused a portion of the I-40 bridge to collapse into the Arkansas River near Webber Falls.

Dedmon was piloting the vessel and Ergon owns the barge.

The complaint filed by Edmondson alleges the defendants are ``presumed to be negligent by virtue of the presumption of fault that arises when a moving vessel strikes a stationary object.''

Dedmon was at the wheel of the towboat when the barge collided with a pier supporting the bridge on May 26. Fourteen were killed when their vehicles plunged into the river.

Attorneys for Magnolia Marine said maritime law dictates that any damages be capped at $1.2 million _ the value of the vessel and barges.

Edmondson said he anticipates a long legal battle.