Bankruptcy Court Holds That “Economic Waste” Doctrine, as Adopted in Wisconsin, Prevented Owner From Recovering Costs to Repair Defectively Designed Digester and Awards No Damages, Even Though the Digester Was Not Designed to the Applicable Code

WTE-S&S AG Enters., LLC v. GHD, Inc., 2017 Bankr. LEXIS 2343 (Bankr. N. D. Ill. August 18, 2017) 

This breach of contract dispute arises out of a contract to design and build a cow-manure digester on a farm in Wisconsin.  The digester vessel designed and constructed by Defendant, DVO, Inc. (formerly known as GHD, Inc.), consisted of a 300-foot long tank with two side-by-side chambers which were each 35 feet wide.  A thick concrete cover sat atop the vessel to prevent “free oxygen” from entering the digester.  A center wall ran the length of the vessel, separating the two chambers and also serving as the interior load-bearing wall.

The Debtor/owner commenced this action against DVO, contending, among other things, that the interior center wall footing of the vessel was defectively designed in that it was undersized and not compliant with the applicable code for waste-storage facilities.  Debtor’s expert testified that the undersized and overstressed wall footings could lead to settlement of the vessel and cracks in the foundation, which would compromise its structural integrity.  Debtor’s expert further testified that to properly support the vessel weight, the currently constructed three-foot wall footing needed to be three-and-a-half to four foot wide.

The court agreed that DVO’s design was defective and constituted a breach of the contract because it failed to comply with the applicable code.  However, applying the “economic waste” doctrine, the court denied Debtor’s request for damages of $988,475 to replace the entire vessel or, in the alternative, $655,000 to shut down and clean out the vessel to check for cracks or settlement issues.  Continue reading “Bankruptcy Court Holds That “Economic Waste” Doctrine, as Adopted in Wisconsin, Prevented Owner From Recovering Costs to Repair Defectively Designed Digester and Awards No Damages, Even Though the Digester Was Not Designed to the Applicable Code”

Federal Court Holds That Under Louisiana Law, Actual Notice of Cause of Delay Satisfies Contractual Notice Requirement Despite Failure to Strictly Comply With the Notice Provision

Parkcrest Builders, LLC v. Hous. Auth. of New Orleans, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125012 (E.D. La. August 8, 2017)

The Housing Authority of New Orleans (“the Authority”) contracted with Parkcrest Builders, LLC (“Parkcrest”) to construct a public housing project.  The Project was delayed and the Authority terminated Parkcrest prior to completion, and entered into a Takeover Agreement with Parkcrest’s Surety.  The Surety retained Parkcrest to complete the work, and later notified the Authority that it had achieved substantial completion.  The Authority asserted deficient and incomplete items remained on the project, which the Surety refused to complete.  The Authority then solicited bids for the remaining work, and awarded the work to a replacement contractor.

Parkcrest sued the Authority for breach of contract and also asserted that any delays on the Project were excusable and, therefore, not subject to liquidated damages.  The Authority counterclaimed against Parkcrest for added costs to complete the project.  The Surety intervened, also seeking a ruling that all delays were excusable.  The Authority then counterclaimed against the Surety for completion costs. Continue reading “Federal Court Holds That Under Louisiana Law, Actual Notice of Cause of Delay Satisfies Contractual Notice Requirement Despite Failure to Strictly Comply With the Notice Provision”

U.S. Court of Claims Denies Contractor’s “Superior Knowledge” Claim Against Owner Despite Owner’s Withholding of Reports That Would Have Revealed to Contractor Extent of Subsurface Deterioration of the Wharf to be Reconstructed

RDA Constr. Corp. v. United States, No. 11-555 C, 2017 U.S. Claims LEXIS 875 (Fed. Cl. July 27, 2017)

This case arises out of a public construction project at the Newport Naval Station.  The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (“NAVFAC”) contracted with RDA Construction (“RDA”) for the demolition, removal and reconstruction of a fifty-year-old deteriorating wharf and bulkhead.  The wharf was supported by 248 steel H-pile beams, encased in concrete and driven into the sea floor.  In 2005, NAVFAC commissioned the Appledore Report which found that these structures exhibited advanced deterioration, much of which could only be observed during underwater inspection and could not support any vehicular loads.  A second report, commissioned in 2008, recommended that the structure not be used during its reconstruction.

In May 2009, NAVFAC issued its project solicitation but did not disclose these reports or their findings.  Instead, NAVFAC invited bidders to the site and encouraged them to investigate it carefully.  Hazardous site conditions were marked with sawhorses, barriers and fencing.  After visiting the site, RDA submitted its bid and was identified as the apparent low bidder.  Two days later, NAVFAC notified RDA that its bid was “substantially lower” than NAVFAC’s estimate and requested that it review and confirm its bid and the scope of work.  RDA assured NAVFAC that it had made no mistakes and would honor its bid.  RDA then provided its technical and management plans to NAVFAC, noting that it planned to perform demolition work from the wharf using land-based equipment.  After receipt of these plans, NAVFAC awarded the contract to RDA; RDA signed the contract on October 13, 2009 and received its Notice to Proceed two days later.  In November, at a pre-construction meeting, RDA again explained its plan to use the wharf during construction as a staging area for its excavators and demolition equipment.  NAVFAC personnel were “shocked” by this plan because the wharf was “condemned”  and subsequently provided RDA with the Appledore report.  Continue reading “U.S. Court of Claims Denies Contractor’s “Superior Knowledge” Claim Against Owner Despite Owner’s Withholding of Reports That Would Have Revealed to Contractor Extent of Subsurface Deterioration of the Wharf to be Reconstructed”