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Minn. bridge collapse victims prepare lawsuit

Dozens of victims of last summer's bridge collapse in Minneapolis have filed preliminary paperwork to sue the state.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dozens of victims of last summer's bridge collapse in Minneapolis — from surviving spouses to the parents of children riding on a yellow school bus — have filed preliminary paperwork to sue the state.

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, provide a glimpse into a brewing legal battle over the Aug. 1 disaster, in which the Interstate 35W bridge plummeted 60 feet into the Mississippi River, killing 13 and injuring 145.

The first legal deadline — requiring those injured to notify the state within 180 days — is coming up Sunday. Lawyers described the notices as a formality that may not even be necessary to sue later, but the number of notices indicate that many victims are contemplating their options in court.

"This is the predecessor to the lawsuits," said Chris Messerly, an attorney for a pro bono coalition of law firms representing more than 60 bridge victims.

Lawmakers consider compensation fund
As of Friday, Attorney General Lori Swanson's office had received notice of potential legal claims from 73 injured bridge victims and their family members. Families of six of those killed also had outlined plans to sue the state for compensation. So did three insurance companies and the owner of the school bus.

Families of those killed in the bridge collapse have up to a year to notify the state of potential legal action.

At least 22 of the notices were on behalf of children, many of them passengers on the bus. Many are still traumatized, according to attorney Wil Fluegel, who represents 10 of the bus riders.

Bridge victims do not stand to get much from the state because of a law limiting the government's liability to $1 million per incident. But lawmakers are considering a compensation fund that would offer more to those who gave up the right to sue the state. A joint state House of Representatives-Senate panel takes up the proposal on Tuesday.