12/01/2006 - 06:00 am

$30 Million Settlement Ends Big Blue Case

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the widows of the three ironworkers who were killed in the July 1999 collapse of the Big Blue Crane at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wis., will receive about $30 million under the terms of an out-of-court agreement.

In December 2000, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court jury attributed 97% of the liability to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America and 3% to Lampson International, which leased the 45-story crane, and awarded the three widows $5.25 million in compensatory damages and $94 million in punitive damages. However, the state Court of Appeals reversed the $94 million punitive damages in September 2003.

In the recent out-of-court settlement, Mitsubishi did not have to pay any money. Instead, three insurance companies • Federal Insurance Co., Travelers Indemnity Co. of Illinois, and Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance Co. • are to make the payments. Of the three companies, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Federal was the most exposed under a layered insurance plan that governed any claims filed in connection with accidents or mishaps on the Miller Park construction site.

Robert Habush, the lead attorney for the widows and their families, said the final settlement sends a message to corporations. “The bottom line is you've got to be careful how you run construction sites, or you'll wind up on the losing end,” he said.

Although the main Big Blue case is now over, a handful of lawsuits connected to the crane collapse are still outstanding, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Don Carlson, a Milwaukee attorney for Lampson, said in a statement that under the terms of the settlement, the insurance companies must reimburse Lampson for part of its legal expenses.

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