At-Risk CM

February 22, 2019

Residents File Lawsuit Against Contractors, Verizon For 3-Alarm Gas Fire

Source:, February 20, 2019

Two San Francisco residents filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the construction company and contractors involved in a gas line rupture that caused a three-alarm fire earlier this month on Geary Boulevard.

According to the suit, plaintiffs Carina Kouyoumji and Nora Wixom are suing Mastec Services Company Inc.; Mastec Renewables Construction Company Inc.; Kilford Engineering Inc.; and Advanced Fiber Works Inc. Verizon Communications Inc. has also been named as a defendant.

Both plaintiffs live in one of the five buildings badly damaged by the Feb. 6 fire, which ignited after workers installing fiber optic lines near Geary Boulevard and Parker Avenue struck a PG&E gas line.

The lawsuit alleges the explosion was a direct result of the defendants’ “reckless and willful violation of California law of using a backhoe to dig a trench near subsurface installations.”

The California Government Code requires anyone excavating near a subsurface installation, such as a gas line, to use hand tools like a shovel.

The defendants are also accused of being negligent, causing a nuisance and trespassing.…

February 22, 2019

Naples-based Stock Development dealing with construction defects at Paseo in Fort Myers

By: Laura Layden

Tony Conte is tired of dealing with construction defects at his part-time home in Paseo.

While fixes have been made at his condominium, some projects have dragged out, leaving him frustrated.

Planks of wood reinforce his second-story balcony — and the manager of the Fort Myers community told him that it’s unsafe to use and not to walk on it, although Conte has to step on it to go in or out of his front door.

“We’ve had a dramatic spate of water intrusion issues, which were the first indications there was something wrong,” Conte said.

The developer, Naples-based Stock Development LLC, and its sister company Stock Construction, have filed multiple lawsuits and sued a laundry list of companies over the defects, from the architects to the roofers.

One of Stock’s lawsuits names more than 13 defendants, including RDL Architects Inc., based in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Gulf Western Roofing & Sheet Metal in Bonita Springs. The claims in the suit range from negligence to breach of contract and from violations of the Florida building code to breach of warranty.…

February 13, 2019

Quake-damaged middle school has faced design questions since it was built in the early 1980s

Source:, February 12, 2019
By: Matt Tunseth

Engineers had serious questions about whether Gruening Middle School could withstand a powerful earthquake from the time the school was built, according to a collection of news stories written about the school’s troubled construction in the early 1980s.

“A major earthquake would produce significant damage and a possible partial collapse,” at the school, California engineering firm Forell/Elsesser Engineers Inc. wrote in a 1983 report to the Anchorage School District.

The firm was commissioned by the district after consultants determined the building — which was supposed to open in the fall of 1983 — was seriously flawed, news stories said. An investigation found errors in the engineering calculations and pointed out that the plans for the school didn’t receive oversight from Anchorage building inspectors, who some Eagle River builders resisted at the time. The district eventually retrofitted the school (which opened to students in 1984), but Forell/Elsesser warned inherent design flaws would likely always be an issue.

“It is not possible to overcome all deficiencies without major and costly reconstruction,” the company wrote.…

February 8, 2019

Builder of collapsed FIU pedestrian bridge had troubling construction failure at Port Everglades

Source:, February 6, 2019
By: Dan Christensen

Two months after last year’s fatal FIU pedestrian bridge collapse in Miami, the company that built the bridge was responsible for a troubling construction failure at Port Everglades.

Munilla Construction Management LLC, which operates as MCM, was hired by Broward County in 2016 as the prime contractor for the Slip 2 expansion project at the north end of the port. The $18-million project, completed in August 2017, saw low-bidder MCM extend the length of the slip about 250 feet to the west and deepen it 50 feet to accommodate larger cruise and cargo ships.

Last May 4, however, something unexpected happened.

“One of the new fenders that MCM installed along Berth 4 fell off the wall this morning and into the Slip,” a port representative told an MCM manager in an email obtained by Florida Bulldog.  “We have already fished it out, and brought it back over to the storage yard, and temporarily hung a tire in that vicinity…This is now causing the Port to be concerned about the other fenders that MCM installed.”…

February 6, 2019

How Texas’ Uncommon Law Is Different on Design Defects

Source:, February 6, 2019
By: Scott Van Voorhis and Richard Korman

With land surveys, contractors often expect some information will be missing. But how much? Fifteen years ago, El Paso Corp. decided to replace a 68-mile-long pipeline with a new one that would carry butane from Corpus Christi, Texas, to inland Air Force bases. The energy company hired a Houston-based survey mapping firm to draw the route with rivers, roads and crossing rights of way. In all, the mapping company counted 280 survey crossings included in the bid package. No one pretended the count was final, and El Paso encouraged potential bidders to do their own survey.

Coral Gables, Fla.-based MasTec, at that time a newcomer to pipeline projects, hired an industry veteran who conducted a flyover of the route, but much was missed, court documents show. MasTec submitted a bid of $3.69 million, well below the average bid of $8.1 million. It signed a contract in 2003 where it took the risk for overruns.

In the end, MasTec had to contend with more than 794 unknown crossings in the pipeline route and the extra welding that would be required, and it sued to recover its losses.…

February 5, 2019

The butler did it: subcontractors pass the buck in downtown library lawsuit

Source:, February 4, 2019
By: Stephanie Riegel

The Texas subcontractor blamed in recent court filings for the structural failure that has stalled the under-construction downtown library for nearly 10 months now is denying culpability and pointing the finger at a Mississippi engineering firm.

In court documents filed January 29, Houston-based Structural Consultants Associates, Inc.—which was blamed in early January for the structural failure by the library’s architect and project manager, WHLC— says Meridien-based Carter Miller Associates Ltd. prepared shop drawings for structural steel connections used in the project “that contained errors. … As a result … there was a failure of certain structural steel connections at the project.”

SCA also suggests construction on the project could have resumed months ago but that WHLC is intentionally stalling. SCA says as far back as April 30 it notified WHLC it would be safe for general contractor Buquet and Leblanc to resume “light duty construction activities” but that no remediation work began. In mid-May, SCA issued another letter to WHLC, giving Buquet and Leblanc the go-ahead to resume full construction activities.…

November 28, 2018

Second lawsuit filed over Charleston airport expansion work

Source:, November 20, 2018
By: Warren L. Wise

Two years after Charleston International celebrated completion of its terminal expansion and overhaul, another legal tussle has cropped up.

The airport’s oversight agency is now suing the architect and a subcontractor in state court for at least $1.5 million over the installation of a cable system that controls airport operations.

The Charleston County Aviation Authority alleges Fentress Architects of Colorado and Burns Engineering of Pennsylvania modified drawings to eliminate four telecommunication cable rooms from the second-floor level and relocate them to the ground-floor apron level.

That, according to the lawsuit, required the low-voltage lines to exceed the maximum 295 feet to meet performance requirements. The airport said it identified seven areas where the cables were too long.

The Aviation Authority has already paid for the work, but it says it filed the lawsuit to recoup the cost to redesign the cable installation and construction expenses along with any business interruption expenses.…

November 28, 2018

The cost of allocating design risk to contractors

Source:, October 30, 2018
By: Doug Tabeling, Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP on behalf of ConsensusDocs

Design flaws are a constant risk in construction, but the contractual allocation of that risk can sway considerably from project to project. Contract terms can vary from fully expressing an owner’s warranty of the sufficiency of plans and specifications to transferring significant design risk to the contractor. On a traditional design-bid-build project, the default allocation of the risk of design errors is governed by the Spearin doctrine. That principle is derived from a Supreme Court decision holding that the owner bears the risk associated with inadequacies in the design it provides and on which the construction contract is based. But it is only a default principle. The Spearin doctrine is a gap filler, an implied term in a construction contract that can be undermined and limited by express terms to which the owner and contractor agree.

There are several reasons why construction contracts vary in their allocation of the risk of design failures. Some owners prefer to achieve the cost savings associated with limiting the contractor’s risk concerning the design and curtailing the amount of contingency in the contractor’s price. Other owners, however, prefer not to assume the residual risk that is not assumed by the designer under its standard of care.

November 28, 2018

Design-build risk abounds, but can be mitigated

Source:, November 26, 2018
By: Joe Beeton

“There is no such thing as risk.” That was the bold message delivered by Grant Holland of Mott MacDonald at last month’s annual Design-Build Institute of America conference in New Orleans. “You cannot quantify, in definitive terms, a particular risk on a project. Every stakeholder has a different view of that risk, they value it differently and they price it differently.”

Instead, the vice president of the United Kingdom-based consultancy’s advisory practice told attendees, “a risk profile is in the eye of the beholder.” In his 25 years of working on U.S. state department of transportation design-build projects, Holland said he’s seen models change from being focused on “risk transfer” to “risk mitigation.”

Common risks embedded in massive design-build and public-private partnerships, for example, tend to be pretty uniform across all projects. “Whether it’s environmental risks, utilities risks, design risks, resources and labor risks — they tend to be constant throughout projects.” At this point in the delivery method’s evolution, he said, it’s less about identifying risks and more about coming up with ways to mitigate them.

One of the more recent methods for doing so, Holland continued, is through allowances. The public sector stakeholder might throw out a number in the early stages of a project that serves as wiggle room. “Whether it’s $2 million or $5 million or whatever number the owner thinks is right” to serve as a ballpark estimation of possible risks, the owner tells the builder to “put it in your bid.” Then it’s on the contractor to spend that amount on risks.…

November 16, 2018

Builder sues over $2 billion San Francisco transit center

Source:, October 17, 2018

The general contractor that managed San Francisco’s troubled $2 billion transit terminal is suing the agency in charge of the project alleging faulty design and mismanagement.

The joint venture of Webcor Builders and Obayashi Corp. filed the lawsuit Tuesday in San Francisco. It alleges design and planning mistakes sent construction soaring and led to overruns that cost the company $150 million.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which operates the Salesforce Transit Center, denied the allegations in a statement Wednesday and said it would hold the contractor responsible for its commitment to deliver the project.

The contractor said it submitted 12,000 requests for information and 1,603 change order requests to officials during construction of the terminal in downtown San Francisco.

The contractor also alleged that tardy responses added to the rising costs.

The project has been mired in litigation.

In May, the engineering firm Skanska USA sued Webcor, saying the contractor’s alleged shoddy instructions led to cost overruns. In addition, the owners of a nearby high-rise apartment building that is sinking and tilting sued the agency. The owners of the Millennium Tower blame the transit center construction project for the building’s tilt.

The terminal opened in Aug. 12 after ten years of planning and construction. It closed a month later after cracks were found in two steel support beams. Agency officials said they don’t when the new terminal will be re-opened.