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Originally published April 20, 2009 at 11:30 AM | Page modified April 20, 2009 at 4:30 PM

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Companies settle lawsuit over fatal 2006 Bellevue crane collapse

Two Seattle companies involved in erecting a construction crane that collapsed in Bellevue in 2006 have settled with the parents of a Microsoft lawyer who was killed when the crane crushed him as he sat in his apartment.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Two Seattle companies involved in erecting a construction crane that collapsed in Bellevue in 2006 have settled with the parents of a Microsoft lawyer who was killed when the crane crushed him as he sat in his apartment.

Attorneys for Lease Crutcher Lewis and Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) confirmed this morning in King County Superior Court that an agreement had been reached with the parents of Matthew Ammon who will receive an undisclosed sum

King County Superior Court Judge Michael Trickey, meanwhile, dismissed a suit against a third company, Northwest Tower Crane Services, saying there was no evidence the company was responsible for the November 2006 collapse.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial this month, with attorneys for Ammon's parents, Kathleen Gaberson and Larry Ammon, arguing that all three companies were negligent in their roles in the installation, design and operation of the crane.

The 210-foot crane was being used to construct the Tower 333 building in downtown Bellevue. It came crashing down on two buildings, the Pinnacle BelleCentre, where Ammon lived, and Plaza 305.

MKA was in charge of the structural engineering of the crane while Lease Crutcher Lewis was the general contractor overseeing the operation. State investigators fined Lease Crutcher Lewis and MKA for improper design and construction of the crane, but the citation against MKA was thrown out on appeal earlier this month.

In an unusual arrangement, the crane had been attached to steel I-beams in an underground parking garage left over from an earlier, unfinished construction project on the site.

After the crane was cut up and removed, its replacement was attached to a concrete pad on the ground, the traditional way to anchor a construction crane.

Several other companies also sued for damage to their buildings and other property. Those suits also have been settled, attorneys said.

"It's kind of hard to put all these feelings into words," said Gaberson, Ammon's mother. "It's been two and a half years and we're glad it's over."

Gaberson, who lives in Pittsburgh, said she wasn't at liberty to discuss the amount of the settlement, but added, "How can you put a dollar amount on a person's life?"

Matthew Knopp, a Seattle attorney representing Ammon's parents, said a tipping point in the case happened last week, on the eve of trial, when MKA admitted some liability in the collapse, though it also continued to point blame at Lease Crutcher Lewis for its role.

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"We're very pleased it's all settled," said Karl Oles, an attorney for MKA. "We know it's been very hard on the family. We regret that it happened."

Ian Ith: 206-464-2109 or iith@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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