September 9, 2020 - Robins Kaplan LLP filed claims today against the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) and the federal government on behalf of two people who were permanently injured and the families of two who died as a result of the massive washout on July 9, 2019, of a culvert on BIA Highway 3 in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota—known locally as the Kenel Road.
The claims allege that the BIA, since 2010, has known this culvert was unsafe and in need of replacement. Despite this, the BIA allowed Highway 3 and the culvert to deteriorate for years while doing nothing to fix the problem. In the early morning of July 9, 2019, flash flooding washed out the culvert and created a chasm in Highway 3 up to 70 feet deep. Four people—two from Mobridge, South Dakota, and two residents of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, all on their way to or returning from work—fell into the chasm. Two drivers sustained permanent injuries and two died.
“For too long the BIA has turned a blind eye to the failing highway infrastructure on the Reservations in the Great Plains,” said Tim Purdon, partner and co-chair of Robins Kaplan’s American Indian Law and Policy Group. “The BIA’s failure to provide safe highways has taken a heavy toll over the decades and has now resulted in this tragic incident that will forever impact these four families.”
Today’s filing of formal demands against the BIA seeks justice on behalf of these victims. If the BIA does not resolve these demands within six months, Robins Kaplan will file suit on behalf of these victims against the BIA in federal court.
In addition to Mr. Purdon, the Robins Kaplan team includes partner Phil Sieff, who represented the families of five children who died and four children who were wounded in the 2005 Red Lake High School shooting on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.