Design firm says it should be free of 35W bridge claim

Major Freeway Bridge Collapses In Minneapolis
Vehicles rest on a collapsed section of the I35W bridge August 2, 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

A California design firm asked the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday to block the firm from being sued by the state of Minnesota over the deadly Interstate 35W bridge collapse.

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., contends it's not liable in the 2007 disaster because too much time had passed since the bridge was built in the 1960s.

Jacobs argued that a state law put a 10-year limit on liability. But the Minnesota Court of Appeals last August allowed the state's claims to go forward.

"My client never touched the bridge," James O'Connor, a Minneapolis attorney for Jacobs, told the six Supreme Court justices. The state had a 1962 contract with Jacobs' predecessor company.

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"The issue here is indemnity," O'Connor said. "That was the obligation that was stolen from us."

Minnesota Solicitor General Alan Gilbert called the collapse that killed 13 people and injured 145 "a horrific event" and urged the high court to let the suit proceed.

Gilbert argued that the Minnesota Legislature had the right to change the law removing Jacobs' immunity when lawmakers approved a compensation package for bridge collapse survivors.

"The Legislature can always change the law," Gilbert said.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that too-thin gusset plates were a key cause of the collapse.

The court took the case under advisement.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)