State Supreme Court declares insurance companies unscathed for SR 99 tunnel construction delays – KIRO 7 News Seattle

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that insurance companies will not have to reimburse the state for the two years the then-broken Bertha drill prevented drivers from using the tunnel. off State Route 99 in Seattle.

The judges unanimously rejected the state’s argument that delays in the tunnel project constituted physical loss or damage triggering insurance coverage.

Washington state residents funded the SR 99 tunnel project largely through gasoline taxes. The decision has no immediate impact on taxpayers, however, as the state won another jury trial where the tunnel contractors sought millions of dollars.

The Bertha tunnel drill overheated on December 6, 2013, triggering a repair effort that lasted more than two years. The drill resumed digging in 2016 and the tunnel was finally opened to traffic in early February 2019.

The Seattle Tunnel Partners construction team blamed the damage on a vertical steel pipe that had been installed in the ground years earlier. STP, which was under contract for $1.35 billion, filed claims against the state for $600 million in additional pay, but a Thurston County Superior Court jury sided with the state. ‘State.

Eight different insurance companies refused to pay the bill, saying Bertha’s rotary cutter head was faulty from the start of the project, which Bertha’s manufacturer denied.

Under the insurance policy, damage or loss caused by Bertha’s “own explosion, mechanical or electrical failure, breakdown, breakage or inconvenience” is not covered.

Supreme Court justices ruled Bertha’s alleged design flaws were “an internal cause” of damages not covered by insurers.

The judges also rejected a claim by the Washington State Department of Transportation that construction delays were considered insured damage.

According to the judgement, “the deprivation, dispossession or harm must be physical. This means that the loss must have a material existence, be tangible or be perceptible by the senses. Since the tunnel had not yet been completed, he was not eligible for insurance coverage.

Kristan F. Talley