The last remaining lawsuits from the fatal 1999 collapse of the Texas A&M University bonfire — filed more than eight years ago — have moved closer to resolution. The Texas Supreme Court has now dismissed a related appeal. Zachry Construction Corp., involved in the building of the bonfire stack, was seeking an order to include the university on the jury verdict form that will be used to apportion legal blame for the collapse. If the victims and their families prevail at trial, the jury’s calculation would determine how much money Zachry and another sued firm, Scott-Macon, owe in damages. Including Texas A&M in the calculations could lower the companies’ financial liability.
The Supreme Court noted that Texas A&M had reached a $2.1 million settlement with family members since the Zachry case was accepted by the court in May. By settling, the university will appear on the jury verdict form, making the Zachry appeal moot. Because it already had settled, the school would not be liable for more damages. Twelve persons were killed in the early morning collapse of the massive wooden stack that was to be ignited the night before A&M’s annual football game with its archrival, the University of Texas.
Much of the delay was over Texas A&M’s claim that it is immune from lawsuits because it is a state entity. The victims dropped A&M from the lawsuit to speed matters, but two people filed suit to bring the school back into the case. Their claims had been before the Supreme Court since 2007. Lawsuits from seven families are now pending. The lawsuits, four from families of the dead and three from families of injured survivors, were consolidated into one case in a state court.
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