Settlements to start in Boston tunnel lawsuit

Settlement talks are to take place this week in the lawsuit brought by the family of a Costa Rican motorist killed nearly a year ago by falling ceiling panels in a Boston tunnel.

Lawyers for Milena Del Valle's family will discuss a possible settlement with lawyers representing the companies that designed and built the tunnel, The Boston Sunday Globe reported, citing unidentified sources.

Del Valle's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last August, naming the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and companies associated with design and construction of the tunnel, part of the notorious Big Dig highway project. The $14.8 billion (11.01 billion EUR) project is the costliest in U.S. history and has been beset by problems ranging from leaks and the deadly tunnel ceiling collapse to enormous cost overruns.

The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount in damages.

The 39-year-old was killed July 10 when several concrete ceiling panels fell from the Interstate 90 connector tunnel as she and her husband drove toward Boston's Logan Airport.

Inspectors believe bolts that held ceiling panels in place came loose because of failures in the epoxy resin designed to glue them in place. Repairs were made throughout the Big Dig tunnel system. Panels were reinforced with additional bolts and brackets.

Lawyers on both sides of the lawsuit would not publicly discuss the settlement talks, the newspaper reported.

In addition to the Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig project, defendants include: Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the project manager; and Modern Continental Construction Co., the company that constructed the I-90 connector ceiling, and several other companies.

Meanwhile, both sides are watching Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has set a June 30 deadline to decide whether to bring criminal charges against those same companies.