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Secret Settlement Discussions In Big Dig Wrongful Death Lawsuit Break Down in Massachusetts

Settlement negotiations between the parties held liable for last year’s collapse of the Big Dig tunnel’s ceiling in Boston and the family of the woman who died in the collapse have faltered. The two sides are reportedly millions of dollars apart, which increases the chances of the wrongful death lawsuit going to court. The family is said to be asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in award money.

Milena del Valle, 39, was riding through the tunnel with her husband when a number of concrete ceiling panels fell onto the vehicle that they were riding in. She died from her injuries.

Her family is suing 15 different companies, including Modern Continental Construction Co. and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, that were responsible for building and designing the tunnel ceiling. Del Valle’s family is citing negligence as the cause of her wrongful death. They are also suing the Maryland Turnpike Authority.

Experts say that the bolts that were supposed to hold the panels in place became lose due to epoxy resin failure. The epoxy resin was supposed to glue the bolts so that the panels would stay up.

In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death action is either three years from the date of the victim’s death or three years from the time that the cause of wrongful death was discovered. Immediate family members, such as husbands, wives, children, and parents, are allowed to sue a negligent party for causing the wrongful death of their loved one.

In the meantime, the Big Dig tunnel continues to leak nearly 2 million gallons of water into the Thomas P. O’Neil Jr. Tunnel. The amount of water leaking through the tunnels has increased 18% since last year. The O’Neil tunnel opened in 2003, but the leaks have been a problem since the tunnel roof was attached to the walls during construction years before. There are leaks throughout the length of the 1.5 mile tunnel. Construction crews reportedly had trouble building a waterproof membrane.

Settlement Talks Fail In Big Dig Lawsuit, The BostonChannel.com, June 30, 2007
Report: Settlement Talks to Begin in Big Dig Death Lawsuit, Boston.com, June 24, 2007
Leakage in Big Dig Tunnel Rises, Boston.com, July 1, 2007

Related Web Resources:

The Big Dig, Massachusetts Turnpike Authority

Wrongful Death, The General Laws of Massachusetts