$8.2M Settlement Secured In Drawbridge Death
An $8.2 million settlement has been secured for the family of a woman who died while she was walking her bike over a drawbridge. The bridge operator did not check to see if there was anyone on the bridge as she was closing it and the woman fell off and died. She was only 10 feet away from the end of the bridge when she fell through a gap in the road. Her family sued the operator of the bridge and secured a hefty settlement. The drawbridge operator is currently facing manslaughter charges for failing to secure the bridge before closing it.
In addition to $8 million, the drawbridge operator will be required to perform criminal background checks on their bridge tenders moving forward. All of the current bridge tenders will be required to undergo recertification. Out-of-area supervisors will conduct periodic inspections of the bridges for quality control purposes. Lastly, all bridge tenders will be required to watch a 23-minute video on the life of the victim.
As part of the settlement, the family has donated $1 million to a scholarship program in the victim’s name. The scholarship will pay out $30,000 a year for the next 30 years. An attorney for the family said that they turned down a larger settlement offer to get the changes needed to prevent a second catastrophe like this from occurring.
A series of troubling incidents occurred prior to the death of the victim. Largely, the company is accused of failing to check their employee’s credentials, failing to train them properly, and failing basic common-sense safety standards that could have prevented this death.
The bridge tender has pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, the case looks likely to plead down to culpable negligence or another crime that is less serious than manslaughter. The bridge tender is accused of not checking the bridge prior to drawing it closed.
The bridge company was obviously responsible for the woman’s death which is why the case settled as quickly for as much money as it did. They really had no defense to the allegations and were pressured by the plaintiffs to make changes to their operations as opposed to forking over 8 figures in a settlement. Nonetheless, the plaintiffs had them over a barrel and got everything they wanted. Hopefully, this will prevent the company from being dangerously lax toward public safety in the future.
For the plaintiffs, it is also a good thing that the government outsources the bridge tending to a private company. Otherwise, the plaintiffs would have been stuck suing the government for a maximum of $200,000. Sovereign immunity prevents judgments over $200,000 in these cases. Private companies enjoy no such immunity.
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