$5.3 million settles bridge suit Woman injured when bridge collapsed on her car in 1989.

June 10, 1991|By Norris West | Norris West,Evening Sun Staff

A former Elkridge woman has won a settlement that will amount to $5.3 million for injuries she suffered when a bridge under construction fell on her car as she was driving on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in 1989.

The settlement, approved Thursday by U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Clarence E. Goetz in Baltimore, will give Kimberly Sue Andersen $2.5 million in cash and an annuity package to provide monthly payments for the rest of her life, said Kathleen M. Cahill, one of her attorneys. Interest from the annuity investment will make the package worth about $5.3 million.

Andersen, 32, who now lives with her mother in Hope Mills, N.C., was in a coma at the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore for weeks after the Aug. 30, 1989, accident.

The Md. 198 bridge collapsed while it was being rebuilt over the parkway near Laurel. According to court records, Andersen suffered permanent brain damage and a variety of other physical injuries when the steel and concrete fell on her car.

Andersen, who has two daughters, was driving to her secretarial job in Washington when the accident occurred.

She has undergone extensive therapy at a rehabilitation center near Fayetteville, N.C., family members said, and never will be able to care for her children or herself without assistance.

Cahill said the schedule of payment on the annuity package has not been worked out, but that it will take care of Andersen and her medical bills for the rest of her life.

"We're satisfied, but it's such a terrible tragedy for the family that obviously no amount of money could address," Cahill said.

Janice Bulmer, Andersen's mother, said the money would relieve the financial burdens but not the pain.

"I'm glad that part of it is over, but we're sad most of the time," Bulmer said in a telephone conversation from her home in Hope Mills.

Bulmer also blames the accident for the death of her husband, John, who neglected his heart problems to make daily trips to the rehabilitation center to help care for his daughter. He died last July.

"We lost our daughter and I lost my husband, and these people who built the bridge -- their lives go on," Bulmer said.

Four contractors who participated in construction of the bridge will share the cost of the settlement -- J.P. Smith Co. Inc., of Edgewater; Associated Marjon Co., of Ashland, Va.; Able Equipment Co. Inc., of Glen Allen, Va.; and Highlights Corp., of Towson.

The federal government also was named in the suit because the Federal Highway Administration was charged with monitoring the bridge's construction. But the government will not contribute to the settlement, said Jennifer Plante, an assistant U.S. attorney.

Roy Saunders, president of Associated Marjon, which was part of the joint venture that acted as the general contractor in the bridge construction, said he was glad the Andersen suit was settled but declined to comment further.

John R. Range, attorney for the contractor, said Andersen will receive payments from insurance companies representing the contractors. He said the settlement was appropriate.

He said Marjon was filing a cross-claim against Able, which supplied components called screw jacks that were used to support the bridge's shoring towers.

An investigation by a private consultant last year concluded that the screw jacks used to build the bridge were the wrong size.

The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a record $919,220 fine against J.P. Smith, a partner in the joint venture, for violation of safety regulations.

Cahill said her client has recovered enough to work a half-day each week as a volunteer at a nursing home, where she spends time with patients. She undergoes physical therapy at least three times a week.

Bulmer, who has been appointed her guardian, says the ordeal has been difficult for Andersen's daughters, Mary, 6, and Sarah, 7.

"They know mom's different and they accept it," Bulmer said. "But some things are hard to accept."

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