Owner of Cascadia bridge in fatal collapse suing insurance agency and tow company

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The owner of a bridge that collapsed two years ago and killed tow truck driver Dale Funk filed a lawsuit in Linn County Circuit Court on June 25 against State Farm and Casualty to pay for the property damage.

It is the second lawsuit that Evelyn Ortiz has filed regarding the bridge collapse. She also filed a lawsuit against Cascade Auto Body, Inc., for whom Funk worked, last year. That lawsuit will go to a settlement conference at the end of September.

The bridge crossed the South Santiam River at 49305 Hwy. 20.

State Farm denied an insurance claim because the bridge is not a building nor is it connected to a building.

Ortiz, represented by James G. Nelson of Albany, claims that the building is a building, a “dwelling extension,” in her lawsuit.

She is seeking $98,000 plus interest from State Farm. She also seeks an amount to be determined before trial for loss of use of the bridge.

State Farm, represented by Douglas F. Foley of Vancouver, Wash., responded by citing the insurance policy, claiming that the bridge is not a building and “the loss was caused by defective workmanship, materials or maintenance.”

State Farm also claimed that the plaintiff failed to perform the work necessary to prevent dry rot to the bridge.

In the earlier lawsuit, Ortiz, represented by James G. Nelson of Albany, is suing Cascade Auto Body, Inc., for $98,000 in property damage. Funk was driving a tow truck for Cascade Auto Body when the bridge collapsed in July 2005.

Funk was leaving the property in a 2005 International tow truck. The bridge collapsed, and he fell into the river in his tow truck with a car riding on the bed. He had purchased a vehicle from Ortiz’s daughter.

The property has two routes to enter and exit, according to Ortiz’s claim. One is an alternate route without a private bridge and is meant for heavy vehicles.

Ortiz and others had explained to Funk about the two exits and that he should not attempt to exit the property using the private bridge because it probably would not support the heavy weight of his tow truck and load, Ortiz claimed, but Funk attempted to use the bridge, which was destroyed.

Ortiz claims that Cascade Auto Body was negligent in driving across the bridge without first determining if it could support the weight of the tow truck and vehicle being towed, in failing to heed warnings from Ortiz not to use the bridge when the driver should have known the weight of his vehicle and the vehicle he was towing would cause the bridge to collapse and in failing to drive with his tires on the metal grating of the bridge when he should have known that failure to drive on the grates would cause the bridge to collapse.

Cascade Auto Body, represented by Louis L. Kurtz of Eugene, denies the claims of negligence, specifically denying that the plaintiff warned Funk not to use the bridge when he left the property.

As a business invitee, Cascade’s response said, Ortiz had a legal duty and responsibility to Funk under state law.

Cascade countered that Ortiz was careless and negligent in allowing a rotten and unsafe wood bridge to exist on her property, in failing to remove a rotten and unsafe bridge from her property, in failing to post signs at a rotten and unsafe bridge on her property to warn persons it was dangerous to use, in failing to block vehicle access to a rotten and unsafe bridge on her property, in failing to warn Funk not to use the rotten and unsafe bridge on her property and in failing to have a rotten and unsafe bridge inspected and repaired or replaced to make it safe for business invitees, such as Funk, on the property.

Total
0
Share