Claims – A&E Prof Liability

May 9, 2018

Cracks where FIU bridge buckled may have signaled ‘imminent failure’

Source:, May 7, 2018
By: Andres Viglucci, Nicholas Nehamas and Jenny Staletovich

A key concrete support truss in the doomed Florida International University pedestrian bridge developed worrisome cracks 10 days before the structure was lifted into place over the Tamiami Trail, photographs and an internal email unintentionally released by the school show.

The documents, released in response to public records requests from the Miami Herald, show that FIU’s construction and engineering team discovered potentially problematic cracks in the bridge earlier than officials have previously acknowledged.

The cracks were found in late February at the base of a diagonal support member at the north end of the span. Independent engineers have identified that as the point where the structure shattered on March 15 while under construction, sending the 950-ton bridge crashing onto the roadway below and claiming six lives.

Three independent engineers who examined the photos, records and bridge blueprints at the Herald’s request concurred the cracks were a red flag signaling potentially critical structural problems. Outside experts have zeroed in on that truss member, identified in plans as No. 11, as being “under-designed” — that is, not strong enough to withstand the pressure from the weight of the bridge it was supposed to hold up.…

April 18, 2018

Architect pays $1.6 million to settle lawsuit over Dayton school flaws

Source:, April 17, 2018
By: Jeremy P. Kelley

Dayton’s school board on Tuesday approved a $1.6 million settlement agreement in favor of the school district and the state, addressing longstanding design problems at Wogaman and Louise Troy schools.

DNK Architects, Inc. will pay $1 million to the school board and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for the Wogaman project and $595,000 for the Louise Troy project, according to the agreement.

DNK was hired to serve as architect and engineer of record for construction of Wogaman in 2002 and Louise Troy in 2005. The schools sit a mile apart in West Dayton, both south of Germantown Street.

By 2013, Dayton Public Schools was seeking contractors to fix roofing and “building envelope” problems at Wogaman, and they ended up completely replacing the roof. The school district sued several contractors over the projects in 2015.

Two other contractors last year agreed to pay $900,000 to settle roof-specific claims. The lawsuit allegations against DNK said that the company’s design documents for Wogaman and Louise Troy contained a combined 2,314 “design errors and omissions” resulting in 319 change orders. In common final settlement language, neither side admitted fault.

The settlement does not specify how Dayton Public Schools and the OFCC will split the settlement proceeds, but a previous settlement was divided 39 percent for DPS and 61 percent for the state, to match each agency’s investment in the project. That breakdown would give DPS just over $600,000 in this case.

April 17, 2018

Sickened Coal Ash Cleanup Workers Seek Justice From Tennessee Valley Authority Contractor

Source:, April 17, 2018
By: Sue Sturgis

At the same time the Trump administration is seeking to roll back regulations designed to protect people and the environment from toxic coal ash, hundreds of workers who cleaned up the nation’s largest-ever coal ash spill and claim it sickened them are still waiting for their day in court.

A team of attorneys has filed lawsuits in federal court on behalf of 53 dead and sick workers against Jacobs Engineering, a Fortune 500 government contractor hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to clean up following the spill of over a billion gallons of coal ash from a holding pond at the federally-owned corporation’s Kingston power plant in eastern Tennessee on Dec. 22, 2008. The spill inundated a nearby residential community and contaminated the Emory and Clinch rivers with coal ash, which is laden with heavy metalsradioactive elements, and other health-damaging contaminants. The disaster also spurred the federal regulations now targeted for rollback.

After the USA Today Network-Tennessee published an investigation into conditions at the cleanup site, more workers came forward with similar stories of lung disease, cancers, and skin conditions. Since then, the attorneys involved in the case filed a new lawsuit in state court on behalf of an additional 180 dead or sick workers.

The federal lawsuit is expected to get underway later this year. It was delayed in part due to a fire at the offices of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the cause of which remains unknown.

While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wanted the cleanup workers to be given protective gear, it met resistance from Jacobs Engineering and The Shaw Group, the Louisiana-based government contractor hired by TVA for technical advice on the project. Workers say the companies downplayed the dangers of coal ash and seemed concerned about alarming the public.

In the end, the EPA signed off on a safety plan that did not require workers to be given protective suits and that made it difficult for them to qualify for a respirator or even a dust mask — and the companies resisted implementing even that.

“Jacobs’ site safety manager, Tom Bock, and TVA site supervisor Gary McDonald both have admitted refusing workers’ requests for respirators and dust masks in violation of the plan’s rules on the approval process,” the USA Today Network-Tennessee reported.

Warnings Were Given

The news network’s reporting on the Kingston cleanup recounted the dangerous working conditions at the spill site, with tornados of coal ash blowing across the landscape and workers eating atop coal ash heaps with only bottled water to clean themselves. However, it did not get all of the facts right. This is how the first story in the series opened:

It was the nation’s largest coal ash spill, and it would bring a stampede of government supervisors, environmental advocates, lawyers, journalists, politicians and contractors to Kingston, Tenn.

But not one of them asked why the hundreds of blue-collar laborers cleaning up the mess weren’t wearing even basic dust masks.

It’s not true that no one visiting the disaster site inquired into the workers’ safety.…

April 12, 2018


This article discusses the fundamental design difficulties of the fully automated baggage system originally planned for the New Denver Airport, and their implications for airport and airline management. Theory, industrial experience, and the reality at Denver emphasize the difficulty of achieving acceptable standards of performance when novel, complex systems are operating near capacity. United Airlines will thus make the Denver system “work” by drastically reducing its complexity and performance. Automated baggage systems are risky. Airlines and airports considering their use should assess their design cautiously and far in advance, and install complementary, backup systems from the start.

Read here.

April 12, 2018

Case Study: The New Terminal 2E at Paris – Charles De Gaulle Airport

Airport Systems Planning, Design & Management Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Read here.

April 12, 2018

Pittsburgh International Airport Parking Garage Precast Double T Structural Defects

By: James Chavanic, Candidate BAE/MAE Architectural Engineering (Structural) 2013, Pennsylvania State University

Pittsburgh International Airport Parking Garage 
Precast Double-T Structural Defects
Pittsburgh, PA (1998)

Key Terms

Parking Garage, Precast Concrete, Double Tee, Carbon Fiber, FRP, Shear Failure, Performance Failure, Dapped, Prestress


The short-term parking facility at the Pittsburgh International Airport was built in 1992 by the Mosites Construction Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Owned by Allegheny County, the $26.6 million garage is constructed of precast/prestressed concrete members. In 1998, the garage was load tested after severe cracking was noticed in the first eight feet of each end in many of the double-tee beams. The tests showed that the beams were not meeting the specifications of the construction contracts and needed to be repaired per request of the owner. Of multiple options considered for the repair, a carbon fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) wrapping method was chosen based on expected life of the repair and limited disruption of parking garage use. Minimal disruption of garage use was a large deciding factor in the final decision since nearly one-third (~700) of the parking spaces would be unusable during the repair. (Belko, May 1998) This equated to millions in lost parking fee revenue during the repair. After four months of working around the clock, the repairs were completed just in time for the holiday travel season. At the time of completion, this project was the largest repair in the world using FRP technology. (Anonymous, March 1999)…

April 12, 2018

Hundreds sue engineering firm over Harvey flooding in Fort Bend levee district

Source:, April 5, 2018
By: Rebecca Elliott

Hundreds of Fort Bend County residents sued a local engineering firm Wednesday alleging the company acted negligently in designing a stormwater management system for a community that flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

The lawsuit filed against Costello, Inc. in state district court focuses on work the engineering firm performed for a Fort Bend Levee Improvement District created more than a decade ago.

The firm was founded by former Houston city councilman Steve Costello who now serves as Mayor Sylvester Turner’s so-called “flood czar.”

The district, known as LID 19, was designed to protect the Riverstone community from inundation from the Brazos River, but roughly a third of the 1,760 homes in the district flooded during Harvey’s assault on the region last August.


To read this article in one of Houston’s most-spoken languages, click on the button below.

“The stormwater management system was not designed to handle rainfall amounts that should have been reasonably anticipated,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in the complaint. “As a result of defendant Costello’s acts and omissions, plaintiffs and their children have been displaced from their homes and have many months and years of costly repairs and rebuilding to come.”

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys in four law firms, seeks damages for repairs, lost property value, lost income and emotional distress, among other flood-related costs.

Costello, Inc. did not respond to requests for comment. The firm also did much of the engineering for Grand Lakes, a subdivision within the Barker Reservoir’s flood pool that was swamped during Harvey.

Costello, who has said he divested from the firm in 2015 when he ran for Houston mayor, said Thursday afternoon he was unaware of the lawsuit and declined comment.

Fort Bend, a rapidly growing county west of Houston, is home to 20 levee systems — or grassy hills with built-in drainage — designed to protect developments on low-lying land from flooding from the Brazos River. During Harvey, however, gates that normally would drain into the Brazos shut as the river level rose. Pumps that were supposed to move 80,000 gallons of water per minute out of the adjacent neighborhoods were unable to keep up with Harvey’s deluge, including stormwater that drained toward Riverstone from other levee districts.

Residents in 14 of those systems, including LID 19, faced evacuation orders during Harvey.

The lawsuit against Costello, Inc. comes roughly six months after dozens of residents sued LID 19, the levee operator, the Riverstone developer and others for negligence. They have denied the allegations, and LID 19 claimed governmental immunity. Costello, Inc. was not named in that lawsuit, which was filed in Fort Bend County.

This new complaint, filed in Harris County, zeroes in on Harvey’s disparate impact on neighboring levee districts — LIDs 15 and 19 — for which Costello, Inc. did engineering work.

The firm, plaintiffs allege, “failed to account for rainwater that would drain from LID 15 to LID 19 after a levee was removed along Hagerson Road,” which cuts between the two levee districts.

“If this was Harvey’s fault, then why would Levee No.15 stay dry?” attorney Michael Simpson said.…

March 21, 2018

Major design change altered FIU bridge cost, schedule

Source:, March 21, 2018

It is still unclear if the design change contributed to the failure.

Construction of the pedestrian bridge that collapsed and killed six people in the Miami area was behind schedule and millions over budget, in part because of a key change in the design and placement of one of its support towers.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public-records request show that the Florida Department of Transportation in October 2016 advised Florida International University and its contractors to move one of the bridge’s main support structures 11 feet (3 meters) north to the edge of a canal, widening the gap between the crossing’s end supports and requiring some new structural design.…

March 15, 2018

The Wharf’s general contractor sues project’s lead architecture firm for $5M

Source:, March 13, 2018
By: Michelle Goldchain

Clark Construction’s lawsuit alleges that Perkins Eastman made significant errors and omissions in its design documents

The first phase of the $2 billion, 24-acre mixed-use project in Washington, D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront, known as The Wharf, may be finished, but the general contractor still has a bone to pick with the lead architect of the project. Clark Construction has filed a lawsuit against The Wharf’s master planner and architect Perkins Eastman and is seeking $5 million in damages, as reported by Bisnow.

According to the lawsuit, “Between approximately May 2014 and September 2015, Perkins supplied design packages of various completion and detail levels to Clark Construction … As construction proceeded, Clark Construction incurred significant damages as a result of errors and omissions by Perkins in the performance of its professional services in connection with the Design Agreements and the Project.”

The more than 10 alleged errors and omissions cited by the lawsuit include exterior retail doors that were inoperable, structural beams that required modifications, and structural columns that did not accommodate the architectural layouts and conflicted with other building components and finishes, such as walls, doors, and cabinets. The lawsuit further alleges that there may be additional problems down the road when the project’s second phase begins later this year.

Clark Construction is the same contractor behind the the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the Museum of the Bible, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

Additional past projects in Washington, D.C., completed by Perkins Eastman include Dunbar High Schooland the Deanwood Community Center and Library.…

November 8, 2017

San Francisco’s leaning tower of lawsuits

Source:, November 5, 2017
By: Jon Wertheim

It’s a story as old as cities themselves: prosperity comes to town and triggers a building boom. In modern San Francisco, rows of skyscrapers have begun lining the downtown streets and recasting the skyline, monuments to the triumph of the tech sector. Leading this wave, the Millennium Tower. 58 stories of opulence, it opened in 2009 to great acclaim, then the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi. Though priced in the millions, the inventory of posh apartments moved quickly. Yet for all its curb appeal, the building has, quite literally, one fundamental problem: it’s sinking into mud and tilting toward its neighbors. Engineering doesn’t often make for rollicking mystery, but San Francisco is captivated by the tale of the leaning tower and the lawsuits it’s spawned. It’s a story positioned — albeit at an angle — somewhere between civic scandal and civic curiosity, an illustration of what can happen when zeal for development overtakes common sense.…