Massachusetts to sue Big Dig companies, alleging negligence in woman's tunnel death

Monday, November 27th 2006, 11:08 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ The state is preparing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the companies that worked on the Big Dig highway tunnel project, alleging their negligence led to the ceiling collapse that killed a woman, a spokesman said Monday.

Attorney General Tom Reilly is seeking unspecified damages for repairs, loss of tunnel use and toll revenue and other economic factors, spokesman David Guarino confirmed Monday. The lawsuit was to be filed Monday or Tuesday, he said.

``This lawsuit is more than just about money, although we will be seeking monetary damages,'' Reilly told WBZ-AM earlier Monday. ``What this case has always been about is the tragic death of Milena Del Valle. That could have been any one of us.''

The lawsuit, to be filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges project manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and Modern Continental Construction Co. were ``grossly negligent'' in constructing the ceiling that collapsed. The suit also names Gannett Fleming, the firm in suburban Braintree that designed the I-90 connector tunnel; as well as companies that supplied the epoxy or ceiling bolts used to hold up ceiling panels.

Four of the concrete panels, each weighing about 3 tons, fell on a car in which Del Valle, a 38-year-old from Boston, was a passenger July 10.

Gannett Fleming also is being sued for breach of contract, Guarino said.

Andy Paven, a spokesman for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, said the company would not comment on the lawsuit. ``We have always said we will stand behind our work,'' Paven said.

A representatives from Cambridge-based Modern Continental also said he could not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit but said the company stands by its work.

Representatives of Gannett Fleming also did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Del Valle's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in August against many of the same companies as well as the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the agency that oversees the $14.6 billion highway project, the most expensive in U.S. history.

Jeffrey Denner, a lawyer for the Del Valle family, said they are gratified that the state plans to sue.

``We're happy that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now standing up and essentially saying who's at fault here with their own investigation,'' Denner said.

The Big Dig replaced the old elevated Central Artery that ran through the heart of Boston with a series of tunnels, ramps and bridges. The project has been plagued by leaks, falling debris, delays and other problems linked to faulty construction.