The first claims in the Thruway bridge collapse have been filed, but officials believe scores will follow.
We have a full team in place to handle these lawsuits, said Nathan Riley, chief spokesman for the State Attorney General's office. The anticipation would be that hundreds of these suits will be filed.Thruway spokesman Arthur D'Isabel said authority officials are not commenting on the court action, but predict it is likely more claims will be filed.
The 540-foot bridge, which spanned Schoharie Creek, gave way April 5 in a torrential storm, spilling several cars and one tractor-trailer into the
raging waters below. The collapse killed ten people and disrupted traffic along New York's busiest highway.
Authorities eventually recovered nine bodies, but say a tenth person, Edward W. Meyer of Albany, also perished. Mr. Meyer was one of three Niagara- Mohawk Power Co. employees on their way to a bowling tournament who were driving across the bridge when it collapsed.
Schneider National Inc. of Green Bay, Wis., filed the first claim. The company is accusing the state of negligence in its $122,500 claim against New York State, said David Sauvey, the firm's attorney.
The claim is for the loss of a Schneider tractor-trailer that fell into the rain-swollen creek, lost profits, cargo and workmen's compensation payment to the driver's family, he said.
Schneider is a Midwestern carrier with 4,800 tractors and 8,600 trailers, according to a Schneider official.
In its claim, the firm seeks $70,000 in workman's compensation for the family of 39-year-old John Ninham, who died in the collapse, $32,500 for the rig and lost cargo and $10,000 apiece for the loss of the use of the rig and for interruption of its trucking business, Mr. Sauvey said.
Schneider is also claiming the bridge was poorly designed, the state failed to inspect it properly, was aware of the hazardous conditions under the bridge, but failed to take measures to protect travelers, Mr. Sauvey added.
Filing a notice of claim against a state agency is standard procedure in New York, Mr. Riley said. The claims, which should include monetary damages, must be filed within 90 days of the event and the state has 20 to 30 days to either dismiss the suits or respond to them, he added.
The case will be heard in the Court of Claims in Albany, and could evolve into a full lawsuit if the state doesn't pay, Mr. Sauvey said.
Mr. Riley noted no personal injury lawsuits have yet to be filed because the state has not appointed an administrator to handle the litigation.
The collapse of the bridge, located about four miles east of Amsterdam and 40 miles west of Albany, continues to snarl traffic along New York's busiest highway, causing headaches for several commercial firms.
And one of them, Boston-Buffalo Express Co., an East Syracuse, N.Y., truck carrier, filed the second claim in the bridge collapse, Mr. Riley said.
The firm, which did not specify any monetary amount, is seeking compensation for interruption of business, lost income and added expenses
because of detours, Mr. Riley said. Boston-Buffalo officials declined to comment.