This week, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of state transportation officials and against two trucking companies in the case of a 2013 bridge collapse involving an oversized load.
On Thursday, October 31, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against Canadian trucking company Mullen Trucking 2005 Ltd. and Motorways Trucking in a 5-4 decision, arguing that the Washington State Department of Transportation should not be held liable for a major bridge collapse.
The ruling comes after years of litigation in the wake of the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River that occurred on May 23, 2013.
According to court documents, Mullen Trucking driver William Scott was transporting a 15 foot 11 inch oversized load from Canada to a location in Vancouver, Washington when the bridge collapse occurred.
Scott was reportedly boxed into the right lane by a Motorways Trucking semi at the time of bridge strike when only the left lane had enough clearance for the height of his load.
From the court documents:
As Scott neared the bridge, he noticed a truck behind him quickly approaching. About a half mile before they entered the bridge, the approaching truck,which was owned by codefendant Motorways Transport Ltd. and driven by Amandeep Sidhu, was “virtually beside” Scott on his left. As they entered the bridge, Sidhu’s truck was halfway beside Scott’s truck, confining Scott to the right side of the bridge. Scott’s oversize load struck the lower right curvature portion of 11 sway braces. Next there was a giant bang, and “everything got violent.”
Two other vehicles carrying three people also fell into the river. No one was seriously injured.
Following the bridge collapse, state officials sued Mullen Trucking and Motorways Trucking for $17 million to help pay for bridge repairs.
In the lawsuit, state officials also accused the pilot car driver of distracted driving as she was allegedly talking to her husband on a hands-free device just before the bridge strike.
The trucking companies countersued, saying that the state had issued the permit to haul the oversized load on the route. The countersuit also argued that the bridge was poorly maintained by the state and that this contributed to bridge collapse.
In the end, the court ruled that the truck operators were responsible for making sure that they were clear to pass under a structure and that the state could not be held liable for damages caused by an oversized truck.