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First Injury Claims Filed With State

October 25, 1989 GMT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ The first of an expected long line of damage claims against the state from the Oct. 17 earthquake were filed Tuesday by two workers injured in the collapse of the Nimitz Freeway bridge, their lawyer said.

The claims were filed with the state Board of Control, whose rejection would clear the way for a lawsuit. They contend the California Department of Transportation had been aware for over a decade that the double-deck Interstate 880 structure was defective and dangerous in an earthquake.

The lawyer, R. Lewis Van Blois, cited published reports of ″statements made by even CalTrans engineers and former engineers, references to interoffice memos, and the 1982 task force study that stated in essence that the elevated structure would receive extensive damage in an earthquake.″

″Ever since the 1971 San Fernando quake and the problems that occurred there, the entire engineering world has known″ about the dangers, Van Blois said. He said he was also in the process of having an independent study made.

The workers, Milton Wade Jr. and Askia Y.M. Hurts of Hayward, were returning from a plumbing job in Wade’s car on the upper deck of the Cypress structure on I-880 in Oakland when it collapsed, the damage claim said. Authorities say the death toll in the collapse could reach 48.

Hurts suffered head, back and neck injuries, had two teeth knocked out and four badly damaged, and got 43 stitches around the mouth, the claim said. It said Wade suffered a concussion, fractured ribs, neck and back problems, and injuries to his jaw and right arm.

″My clients have medical problems, they don’t have insurance, they’re out of work and they want to get this thing moving as quickly as possible,″ Van Blois said. He said they are at home and he didn’t know when they would return to work.

The Board of Control, which usually rejects such claims routinely, has 14 days to act.