Tuesday, May 30, 2017

some details emerge in the Silver Spring Transit Center lawsuit settlement

County Agrees To Settle Silver Spring Transit Center Lawsuit - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

my comment: 
there are no winners here. the biggest losers in this "monumental debacle", as councilman Phil Andrews aptly put it, are county, state and federal taxpayers who, in the end, will pay millions for cost overruns that resulted from poor engineering, construction and inspection, and from the lawsuit. All parties, including Montgomery County, construction manager of record for the project, are responsible for this debacle.

"The lawsuit has gone through numerous twists and turns since it was filed by the county in August 2015. Pretrial discovery and preliminary hearings on a blizzard of motions filed by the county and the defendants took more than a year.


Leggett and other county officials familiar with the case said there were several reasons for pursuing a settIn March, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael Mason threw out the county’s allegations of fraud and its demand for punitive damages against the contractors. Mason also ruled that if the county won, it could not collect costs for attorneys or consultants. The county hired outside attorneys for the case, costing millions in fees. Montgomery’s main outside consultant to investigate problems with the project, KCE Structural Engineers, alone cost $8.5 million.
After Mason’s decision, county lawyers were left to pursue about $40 million in claims for breach of contract and cost overruns.
The county also faced an $11 million counterclaim from Foulger-Pratt, seeking costs that the firm said were incurred by county delays and the addition of a new two-inch layer of concrete on the transit center roadways.
From the outside, the transit center looks like a nondescript garage. But its unusual racetrack-like oval design, on land with multiple elevations, increased the complexity of the project. The concrete structure, expected to withstand the stresses produced by an estimated 120 buses an hour barreling to 32 bays, was “post-tensioned” with steel supports embedded in the concrete.
Problems first emerged in April 2010, when Georgios Mavrommatis, who examines plans for the county, looked at drawings of a long, curved wall on the northeast side of the building. He saw that there was no provision for slip joints where the floor met the wall. Engineers use slip joints to allow a building to move under stress, such as when a heavy bus rolls by.
Douglas Lang, Parsons Brinckerhoff’s main engineer on the project, expressed confidence that the design was sound without the joints.
The settlement is outlined in two documents the county released Tuesday. In one, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Balter agree to pay the county $25 million. In the other, the county agrees to pay Foulger-Pratt $3 million. Neither the companies nor the county acknowledge any negligence or wrongdoing. A non-disparagement clause also prevents the parties from saying anything critical about each other going forward.
Metro, which also sued the contractors in 2015, settled its case shortly before the trial began. The terms are not known. The transit center has operated safely since opening in the summer of 2015.
Before the settlement was announced, the trial in Mason’s courtroom was a remarkable scene, with as many as 13 lawyers crammed among five tables where there are usually two. When all attorneys approached the bench for conferences — a frequent occurrence with multiple defendants — it looked like a kind of legal rush hour. Mason kept a tight lid on the proceedings, barring attorneys from discussing the case outside court and ordering the county to scrub its website of information about the transit center’s problems so jurors couldn’t do their own research.
Each party tried to dominate the narrative, mostly by pointing fingers. The county said it had every reason to trust the contractors it hired. Foulger-Pratt said a faulty, incomplete design by Parsons Brinckerhoff and delays created by the county made it impossible to do the job in a timely manner. Parsons Brinckerhoff contended that the county rushed the project.
The flurry of arguments thrust the jury a into a netherworld of construction arcana, with disquisitions from attorneys on slab thickness, torsion and shear and axial stiffness.
While the county requested a jury trial, there were signs that it may have been losing confidence in the jury’s ability to sort matters out in the county’s favor.

“I look over all the time and wonder how this hits them,” William Nussbaum, one of the outside attorneys hired by the county, said at a bench conference out of the jury’s earshot last week. “I wonder if, you quiz them now, they could tell you what’s going on here.”
Silver Spring Transit Center contractors, Montgomery County settle lawsuit over late, overbudget project - The Washington Post

my comment:

good job, Mr. Turque; thanks for your report. not only is it informative, but your descriptions are priceless. "When all attorneys approached the bench for conferences — a frequent occurrence with multiple defendants — it looked like a kind of legal rush hour. ... The flurry of arguments thrust the jury into a netherworld of construction arcana..." If everybody in this fiasco had done their job--engineers engineer, contractors construct, inspectors inspect and construction managers manage--like you write, then the SSTC would have been structurally sound, on time, and on budget.

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