A uniquely designed pedestrian bridge failed during installation of the concrete deck, causing serious injuries and one fatality. The design called for a 52-meter (170-foot) single-span composite girder consisting of a steel box beam with an integrated, poured-in-place concrete deck. A forensic engineering investigation commissioned by the Department of Transportation concluded that the open-top box girder ("tub girder") buckled during concrete pouring operations. The failure mode was characterized as "global torsional buckling." The resulting litigation focused on structural design, constructability and erection procedures, particularly failure to support the structure with temporary shoring until the concrete deck had attained full strength.
Iseman, Cunningham, Riester & Hyde was engaged to defend the international engineering firm which had served as the state's consultant. Although our client's sub-consultant had prepared the structural plans for the bridge, neither firm had any role in the construction phase. Our defense established that the design fully conformed to standards of the New York State Department of Transportation and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). We also developed evidence that erection procedures did not provide for temporary shoring of the girder. Our discovery efforts also revealed anomalies in a "haunch survey" of the erected steel girder which portended failure under the load of uncured concrete in the absence of temporary shoring. Legal issues in the case included sovereign immunity, learned intermediaries, contribution and indemnity rights, and coordination of suits in separate courts with mutually exclusive jurisdiction of state and non-state actors. The complex of lawsuits was resolved by a global settlement, a substantial portion of which was funded by the state of New York, its contractor and the steel fabricator.