Judge Sides with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on Jurisdiction for Bridge Collapse Lawsuit

Jul 2, 2014

A cargo ship took out a 322-foot section of the Eggners Ferry Bridge in western Kentucky on January 26, 2012.

A federal judge has sided with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in a lawsuit against the owner of a ship that damaged a western Kentucky bridge.  The ruling says the case against employees of Foss Maritime Company must be heard in a state circuit court.  

The Transportation Cabinet sued seven current or former employees for their part in the 2012 crash of the Delta Mariner, into the Eggners Ferry Bridge on Kentucky Lake.  An entire span of the bridge was demolished and had to be replaced.  The state is seeking to recover more than $7 million in damages. 

The Transportation Cabinet filed suit against Foss Maritime, the owner of the cargo vessel, in Marshall Circuit Court and requested a jury trial.  Seattle-based Foss Maritime got the case removed to federal court.  But in a ruling this week, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell Judge ruled that "state courts remain competent to  hear maritime causes of action as long as the defendant is a person and not a vessel."  The decision leaves open the possibility of a jury trial.

Foss Maritime maintains it is not responsible for causing the collapse because some of the bridge's navigation lights were not working.  The Cabinet’s lawsuit claims the crew ignored a series of warnings from the U.S. Coast Guard about the malfunction.