Charleston ports agency settles with Leatherman Terminal contractor

Charleston ports agency settles with Leatherman Terminal contractor

Source:, May 31, 2019
By: David Wren

The State Ports Authority and an engineering firm that worked on the Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston have agreed to settle legal claims they had filed against each other.

A jury sided with S&ME Inc. earlier this year in a case where the authority alleged the firm conducted faulty soil tests that resulted in a design that couldn’t support cranes and other equipment. The SPA had been seeking more than $35 million in damages.

The maritime agency asked the S.C. Court of Appeals to overturn the verdict, but last month withdrew its appeal when Raleigh-based S&ME agreed to drop a counterclaim alleging it had been banned from doing any further work for the SPA.

The engineering firm also had been considering a defamation claim against the authority for alleging it did faulty work.

In the end, both sides agreed to pay their own costs and walk away from the lawsuits, according to a filing in Charleston County court.

“The parties agreed that S&ME would dismiss its claim against the ports authority and the ports authority would withdraw its appeal against S&ME,” said authority spokeswoman Kelsi Brewer.

The authority filed its lawsuit in September 2016, claiming it had to spend additional money on work, materials and construction delays due to S&ME’s faulty work.

A second defendant — California-based engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol — settled with the SPA more than a year ago.

S&ME filed its counterclaim in December 2016, alleging a potential contractor on the authority’s Dillon inland port was told it could not use S&ME as a consultant if it wanted to bid on that project.

An official of S&ME said after the jury verdict that the firm’s work at the Leatherman Terminal was “professionally and competently performed,” adding the company was “glad to put this lawsuit behind us.”

The first phase of the 280-acre Leatherman Terminal, under construction at the former Navy base, will include a 1,400-foot wharf that can accommodate ships hauling up to 18,000 cargo containers. The initial phase of the $762 million project is scheduled to open in 2021.

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