Following months of negotiations, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) has tentatively settled a legal battle that sprung from a months-long emergency shutdown of I-495 outside of Wilmington in 2014.
DuPont and three other companies have agreed to pay an as-yet undisclosed amount to the agency, after a $89 million civil complaint filed in 2017 in federal court claimed that negligence on the part of the four contracting companies resulted in the need for emergency bridge repairs.
According to a letter to Judge William C. Carpenter, Jr. from DelDOT attorney Bradley S. Eaby, finalizing the agreement "may take a bit longer than usual" because it needs "formal acceptance by the Federal Highway Administration.” The letter did not reveal the dollar amount agreed upon in the settlement.
In May 2014, an engineer from Duffield Associates was doing a site visit on an adjacent job site when he noticed that several I-495 pillars had begun to tilt to one side. After photos were sent to DelDOT, the bridge was shut down on June 2. Drivers were caught unawares and no detour plan was in place.
In its lawsuit, DelDOT claimed that private construction crews, without permits, had placed 50-ft-tall mounds of dirt onto land adjacent to the bridge. The mass of material compressed soft soils around the foundation pilings, damaging both them and the bases of some concrete supports. The dirt in question sat on land owned by DuPont and Alma Properties LLC. Two other companies, Keogh Contracting Company and Port Contractors Inc., had leased the land. Thus the four defendants.
DelDOT sought $89 million, which was double the damages for the direct repair costs, as well as an undetermined amount for the costs of traffic delays, increased wear and tear on nearby roadways, and the delay of other state roadway projects that resulted from the DOT’s refocus on I-495.
After U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called the stoppage "a national issue," the U.S. Department of Transportation covered 97% of the $44.6 million cost to repair the bridge.
Source: USA Today