As Genoa Bridge Fell, So Does Italy

by Riccardo Piselli and Riccardo Venturi

When the bridge fell, the law has falied

It’s now been almost a week since the Morandi bridge collapsed in Genoa, and Italy, in a permanent state of shock, could hardly realize what has happened. The fall of this crucial infrastructure connecting not only the two halves of the Ligurian city, but also Italy to France and the country’s second-biggest port to Northern Europe, is just the last tragedy suffered by the Genoese people.

Only four years ago that flood chaos. Now, this bloody bridge caused 43 deaths and hundreds of displaced people. And on top of that, when the bridge fell, the law has falied. Once again, if the purpose of a set of rules is to prevent a risk, what shall we think about our legal system? An ultra-detailed and finest social system that, it would seem, is of little help, if not even completely useless.

Indeed, the bridge collapsed. And what’s more, it is extremely complex to determine who is responsible, to impose an appropriate penalty. Revoking the motorway concession held by Autostrade per l’Italia (the holding company operating toll motorways in Italy), as the government proposed, might seem due, in order to pay compensation to the families of the victimes or to give to a paralyzed Genoa an alternative to that bloody bridge that collapsed.

However, any ‘legal technician’ – to use an oxymoron – knows well that withdrawing a concession is not that easy, as you must pay indemnification. This means that you face risk of multimillion lawsuits, concerning liability for damage to the treasury. Thus, even the set of rules that should prevent the risk of not determining who is responsible and imposing an appropriate penalty, in accordance with the principles of justice, failed.

Therefore, the bridge collapsed and no one is to blame. The government remarks that Autostrade is responsible, whereas for Autostrade it is clear that it’s the maintenance’s fault. Lawyers say that it’s complex, professors say the same, just less colloquially. Withdrawal procedures are initiated, but these are designed to bog down in the courts. Media swirl, politicians and engineers too, in an already seen theater piece.

In conclusion, one would think that the law, the media and the political system all failed. Failed to prevent the risk of another tragedy. Failed to prevent the risk of a non-served justice. Failed to prevent the risk of disinformation. Failed to prevent the risk of an uncontrolled power leading to full-blown distortions. Then, it’s probably the society as a whole who has failed. And all for that bloody bridge that collapsed one week ago.