Civil

May 18, 2017

Appeals court finds C.B. Engineering responsible in dispute over condemned Lake St. Louis home

Source: http://stlrecord.com/, May 17, 2017
By: Sam Knef

A dispute between a homebuilder and engineering firm over who was to blame for a newly constructed home being condemned shortly after the owners moved in has been decided by the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District.

In a decision handed down May 9, the appeals panel upheld a St. Charles County Circuit jury verdict holding C.B. Engineering Inc. of Union responsible for the condition of the Lake St. Louis home at 115 Place de Yeager because it failed to test the compaction rate of at least one layer of fill below grade upon which the home’s foundation was laid. The $615,000 home slid down the rear slope of the property, according to court documents.

The engineering firm faced cross-claims brought by Beris Construction LLC of Wentzville, which discovered in litigation brought by homeowners Carl and Jessica Eisenmann that, even though C.B. Engineering provided a certification letter to the city’s building department indicating testing was completed and ensuring the bearing capacity of the subgrade, it actually did not test or observe a layer of soil between 6 feet and 7 feet below grade.

According to the ruling, the certification letter stated that “the materials placed under observation met or exceeded the minimum compaction requirements and are suitable for support of the residential construction.”

Three months before the Eisenmanns were to close on the house, they had noticed cracking and leaking in the basement. As a result, the builder had a retaining wall installed, the ruling states.

The ruling also says that the engineer who was consulted for the retaining wall had not been aware of any problems related to slope failure when he was asked to design and install it, and he therefore did not perform any additional soil stability or global stability analysis of the area.…

April 28, 2017

Insurer alleges improper installation of sprinkler system in lawsuit over fire that destroyed Pa. building

Source: http://www.securityinfowatch.com, April 26, 2017
By: Keith Gushard

A $5.2 million civil lawsuit has been filed in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas in connection with a fire that gutted the Titusville Towne Square building more than two years ago.

The 17-count lawsuit has been filed by Erie Insurance Exchange, as it was the insurance agent for Titusville Redevelopment Authority, and Melissa Bergman, a tenant of the Towne Square. Erie Insurance is suing architects, contractors and the owner of an adjoining building claiming negligence. No trial date has been set in county court.

The suit claims negligence and breach of contract by architects and contractors in the design and installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system on the fourth floor of the Towne Square building. The owner of an adjoining building is being sued for both negligent security of her building and general negligence for letting a March 17, 2015, fire spread from her building to the Towne Square building. The suit alleges the March 17, 2015, fire at the adjoining building rekindled and set the Towne Square Building on fire March 18, 2015.

According to the suit, Erie Insurance has paid out $5,246,662.15 in insurance claims so far and wants to recoup that money plus interest, attorneys’ fees and any other costs the court “deems just and proper.”…

April 19, 2017

Roof issues delay opening of $1.5B Mercedes-Benz Stadium — again

Source: http://www.constructiondive.com, April 19, 2017
By: Kim Slowey

Dive Brief:

  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials have announced that issues with the retractable roof will delay the $1.5 billion venue’s opening for a third time, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Atlanta Falcons officials said the new opening date has been pushed from July 30 to August 26, when the NFL team’s first preseason game is scheduled. A spokesman said the roof’s steel work is taking longer than anticipated, and extra time is required to adjust the signature design so that the interlocking “petals” fit with each other.
  • The roof has been the source of all the announced project delays thus far. This latest postponement means that Atlanta United, scheduled to begin playing at the stadium in July, will play elsewhere until the facility is open.

Dive Insight:

It was just a few weeks ago that stadium officials floated the possibility of a change to the July 30 opening date amid rumors that the roof was not going to be complete. This latest delay pushes the opening almost five months behind schedule.

However, even the August 26 opening date doesn’t appear to be 100% firm, as team officials said the demolition of the Falcons’ former home, the Georgia Dome, has been put on hold as “an insurance policy” in case the team has to start out the season there. The Georgia Dome field has already been removed, as well as other equipment that would have to be returned so that the Falcons could play there, according to USA Today.

The roof design, while troublesome up to this point, is the focal point of the project. It is designed to open and close like the aperture of a camera lens, necessitating precision in design and installation. The steel delivery was also a challenge. Team officials said the manufacturing of roof material had to be coordinated between 32 factories in the U.S. and Canada.

When complete, the venue will be the first LEED Platinum–certified stadium and the first sports facility to earn all of the U.S. Green building Council’s available water credits. The project also received recognition from the White House last year when the Office of Science and Technology Policy used the stadium — which will have solar-powered electric-vehicle charging stations and solar panels — as an example of sustainability.…

April 19, 2017

Serious design, construction and maintenance defects doomed Oroville Dam, report says

Source: http://www.latimes.com, April 17, 2017
By: Ralph Vartabedian

Design flaws, construction shortcomings and maintenance errors caused the Oroville Dam spillway to break apart in February, according to an independent analysis by Robert Bea for the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley.

Bea, a co-founder of the center and retired civil engineering professor, found that in the 1960s, when the dam was being planned, designers did not call for a thick enough concrete spillway floor. Nor did they require the continuous steel reinforcement needed to keep its slabs intact during decades of service.

The design also did not require strong enough anchors into the underlying mountainside to resist movements downhill and from side to side.

The analysis is the first major assessment of what caused the massive damage that forced the evacuation of nearby Oroville and left the state with a repair bill likely to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

It also sends a warning that the state’s aging fleet of dams may contain unknown defects that would threaten public safety in future wet years.

California Department of Water Resources spokeswoman Erin Mellon said the agency has not seen Bea’s analysis.…

April 18, 2017

Developer McKafka sues architect, alleging construction delays and defects at the Crimson

Source: https://therealdeal.com, April 17, 2017
By: Francisco Alvarado

An Aventura-based architecture firm allegedly left McKafka Development Group hanging, delaying construction on its 90-unit high-rise called the Crimson in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood, according to a lawsuit.

McKafka, through its limited liability company Alpine Estates, accuses International Design Engineering and Architecture, or I.D.E.A. for short, of breaching its contract and negligence, in the lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month.

Stephane L’ecuyer, I.D.E.A.’s principal, did not return two phone messages seeking comment. McKafka principal Stephan Gietl also did not respond to The Real Deal, but his lawyer Bruce King said, “We had several discussions to get a resolution and have been unable to do so.” He declined further comment.

According to the lawsuit, McKafka hired I.D.E.A. on Feb. 8, 2013 as the architect of record and Facchina Construction of Florida as the general contractor for the Crimson. However, the architecture firm performed poorly, the lawsuit alleges. The Crimson, at 601 Northeast 27th Street, remains unfinished today.

“I.D.E.A. failed to timely coordinate with or respond to Facchina, prepared incomplete or inconsistent drawings and specifications, and failed to perform in a manner consistent with the design schedule,” the lawsuit states.

McKafka alleges that I.D.E.A. also failed to timely respond to requests for information, change order requests, or provide staff to ensure continuity of service. In addition, according to the suit, I.D.E.A. improperly designed the garage ramps that led to substantial structural changes. The company also improperly designed the temperature control system, resulting in high humidity in the condo units, the lawsuit alleges.

Other significant revisions at the Crimson included the relocation of piles and beams and the redesigning of the height of the building’s stairs and the size of an emergency generator room, McKafka alleges. As a result of the repairs and revisions, the project was delayed and Facchina charged the developer for the delays, as well as additional construction costs, according to the suit.…

March 2, 2017

Edgewater condo owners sue engineering firm for $1M in damages

Source: https://therealdeal.com, March 1, 2017
By: Francisco Alvarado

Property at 2121 N. Bayshore Drive was affected by leaky HVAC, residents say

The condominium board at an older building in Edgewater is suing the engineering firm that designed the HVAC system at the property, alleging that the system caused extensive damage to the building.

In a Jan. 26 lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Biscayne 21 Condominum Inc., which represents the 192 unit owners of the mid-rise tower at 2121 North Bayshore Drive in Edgewater, is suing Fort Lauderdale-based Hillman Engineering. Biscayne 21 alleges that Hillman was professionally negligent and breached its contract by designing a leaky system that caused damage to the building’s interiors.

The condo board is seeking more than $1 million in damages, plus attorneys’ fees. Representatives for Hillman declined to comment, and Harry Malka, the attorney for Biscayne 21, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Biscayne 21 determined near the end of  2010 that the HVAC system needed to be upgraded and repaired. On Feb. 15, 2011, Biscayne 21 hired Hillman to determine the extent of the repairs to the existing equipment, design a revamped HVAC system approved by the association, and oversee the installation of the new system and repairs.

“Shortly after the conclusion of the project, the new HVAC system began to experience many leaks in the new insulation,” the lawsuit states, “causing damage to drywall and flooring throughout the hallways and corridors of the property.”

Biscayne 21 hired Bosch Group, a construction consulting firm, to inspect the work performed by Hillman. On Nov. 12, 2015, Bosch issued a report documenting “numerous design and construction administration errors and omissions” by Hillman, the lawsuit states.

Biscayne 21 was built in 1964. Prices of available units start at $279,000, according to Realtor.com.…

July 12, 2016

Dispute over botched soil cleanup near McLane Stadium headed to federal trial

Source: http://www.wacotrib.com, July 8, 2016
By: J.B. Smith

A city of Waco lawsuit against the Kleinfelder engineering firm over a soil cleanup job is moving to trial after an unsuccessful mediation attempt this week.

The lawsuit, filed in October in federal court in Waco, alleges that Kleinfelder’s failure to properly identify toxic soil from the old Southwest Chemical site near McLane Stadium added $1.1 million to the remediation project. The lawsuit seeks that amount as well as legal fees associated with the suit.

The case is expected to go to trial in October, City Attorney Jennifer Richie said after a daylong mediation session Thursday.

“The parties were not able to successfully mediate our dispute,” Richie said, adding that the details of the mediation remain confidential.

The lawsuit filed on Oct. 26 in the U.S. District Court, Western District, alleges breach of contract and negligence on Kleinfelder’s part. Kleinfelder has countersued, asking the judge for a declaration that Kleinfelder had no liability for the added cost under its agreement with the city of Waco.

Michael Goldman, attorney for Kleinfelder, said the problem arose because the city of Waco decided, against Kleinfelder’s advice, to ship soil to the Waco Regional Landfill, where it got mixed together.…

July 12, 2016

Mount Polley mine owner sues engineering firms over tailings dam failure

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com, July 8, 2016
By: Laura Kane

The owner of the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia’s Interior has sued two engineering firms for damages over a disastrous dam collapse two years ago.

Imperial Metals has filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging negligence and breach of contract by Knight Piesold and AMEC, now Amec Foster Wheeler.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and neither company has filed a statement of defence.

The lawsuit alleges a flawed tailings storage facility was designed and monitored by Knight Piesold from the late 1980s to 2011, and then by AMEC until its collapse in August 2014.

“Each of the defendants failed to undertake necessary, proper and reasonable investigation of the subsurface conditions underlying the (tailings storage facility) prior to and during its phased construction and operation,” the suit says.

As a result, the suit alleges, the facility had an inadequate safety standard, despite both companies repeatedly providing Imperial Metals with reports that claimed it was safe.

“Those reports were in error,” the suit contends. “The conduct of each of the defendants was negligent, was in breach of the applicable contracts and caused the ultimate failure of the (facility).”…

June 23, 2016

Schuette: Firms made Flint’s water crisis ‘worse’

Source: http://www.detroitnews.com, June 22, 2016
By: Jonathan Oosting

Attorney General Bill Schuette on Wednesday sued a pair of engineering firms for allegedly allowing the Flint water contamination crisis to “occur, continue and worsen,” a claim the companies denied and vowed to fight.

Schuette filed the civil lawsuit in Genesee County Circuit Court against Veolia North America and Lockwood Andrews & Newnam (LAN). The suit also names LAN’s Nebraska-based parent company, Leo A. Daly Co.

The engineering firms, hired to assist the city before and after it began using Flint River water in April 2014, “basically botched it,” Schuette said at a press conference at the University of Michigan-Flint.“They didn’t stop the water in Flint from being poisoned, they made it worse.”

The attorney general told reporters the state may seek to recover “hundreds of millions” in damages from the companies, money he said could be used to provide services, education and health care infrastructure in Flint.

The city had hired LAN in June 2013 to prepare its treatment plant for full-time operation using Flint River water. Then-Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz authorized the sole-source contract with the Texas-based company.

The suit, which also accuses LAN of a public nuisance, claims the company’s “failure to design and implement corrosion control breaches the duty of a professional engineering firm in this field” and violated the Safe Drinking Water Act.…

April 5, 2016

California Upholds Contractor’s Professional Negligence Claim against Geotechnical Engineer in the Absence of Privity

Source: http://www.lexology.com, April 1, 2016
By: Scott R. Murphy, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

Note: This article appears in the April 2016 edition of Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Construction Law Update e-newsletter.

Within the past two years California courts have recognized negligence claims against professional engineers and architects in the absence of privity. First, in Beacon Residential Community Assn. v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, 59 Cal.4th 563; 173 Cal.Rptr.3d 372; 327 P.3d 850 (2014), where the court found residential design professionals potentially liability for negligence claims brought by third party homeowners whom they had no contractual relationship. More recently, the court in Apex Directional Drilling, LLC v. SHN Consulting Engineers & Geologists, Inc., — F.Supp.3d — N.D. Cal. 2015) recognized a contractor’s claims for professional negligence and negligent misrepresentation against a geotechnical engineer where the contractor relied upon the engineer’s geotechnical report in preparing its bid on a municipal wastewater pipeline. We wrote about the Beacon decision last fall and how the declining significance of privity has found its way into California construction law. That trend has continued and has now been applied in the commercial setting.

In Apex, the City of Eureka, California solicited bids for the installation of a new wastewater pipeline by use of a technique known as horizontal directional drilling. The lead engineer on the project contracted with the city to serve as project manager. Part of the engineer’s job was to conduct a geological study of the construction site and based on its findings, prepare a bid package describing the project. Certain portions of the study were furnished to potential bidders and the project engineer intended that the contractors would rely on the reports and drawings to estimate the necessary inputs for completing the work and how much to bid on the project. However, the engineer’s study was based on the results of a single test bore, which was drilled outside the path of the planned pipeline. Relying upon this study, the plaintiff contractor submitted the lowest bid and was awarded the project.…