Three and a half years after it cut the ribbon on a reconstructed inner boat basin, the Crescent City Harbor District is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the contractor and subcontractors that built it and the engineering firms that designed the project.
In its complaint, filed April 19, 2017 in Del Norte County Superior Court, the harbor contends it has identified defects and damage to the basin’s pedestals, electrical systems, substations, metering system, plumbing system, potable water system, fire suppression system, steel guide piles, the concrete floating dock system and Unibolts, which hold the docking together.
The harbor’s complaint accuses defendants Dutra Construction, the project’s general contractor, Stover Engineering, Kennedy/Jenks Consulting and Ben C. Gerwick Engineering P.C. as well as others as-yet named defendants of breach of contract. The complaint also accuses subcontractors Reese Electric Inc., Eaton Corporation, Bellingham Marine Industries, Datacomsys-USA Inc. and Wayne Maples Plumbing and Heating and other as-yet named defendants of breach of third-party contract.
The harbor also accuses Dutra, Reese Electric Inc., Eaton Corporation, Bellingham Marine Industries, Datacomsys and Wayne Maples Plumbing and Heating of breach of express warranty.
The lawsuit is accusing all defendants of professional negligence and implied contractual indemnity, according to the complaint.
All the defendants were paid for the project, “in the millions,” according to Autumn Luna, the harbor district’s legal counsel. The harbor district is seeking to recover money that will pay for current and future repairs
The suit is still in its preliminary stages when parties formally submit their claims and defenses, Luna said, the harbor district’s legal counsel.
Several of the defendants have filed cross complaints as a result of the lawsuit, she said.
The case was originally filed in Del Norte County Superior Court, but has since been moved to Sacramento County Superior Court.
On Tuesday, the Crescent City Harbor District voted to reject a cross claim from Wayne Maples Plumbing and Heating. None of the other defendants have named the harbor district as a cross defendant, Luna said Thursday.
“Dutra, Eaton, Reese and a handful (of others) did file cross complaints, but they all named the other,” she said. “It’s pretty common. One defendant may say it wasn’t actually me it was this other defendant. In this case, a subcontractor might say it’s the prime contractor’s fault or vise versa, which is what’s happening.”
The Crescent City Harbor District entered into contracts with Stover Engineering, Kennedy/Jenks and Gerwick to provide design and engineering services to rebuild the inner boat basin following the 2006 and 2011 tsunamis. According to the complaint, the project’s intent was to construct an inner boat basin capable of withstanding a 50-year tsunami.
The harbor district entered into a contract with Dutra on May 1, 2012. Dutra would act as the general contractor, providing design, labor, materials, equipment, supervision and services for the project, according to the complaint.
Dutra then entered into written third-party beneficiary contracts with Reese Electric, Eaton, Bellingham, Datacomsys and Wayne Maples, according to the complaint.
The project was finished on April 1, 2014. The reconstruction project cost $54 million, the Triplicate reported on June 25, 2014. The harbor district is currently paying down a $5.4 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which helped pay for the project.
The harbor district’s complaint alleges electric pedestals are defective at keeping the system and components protected from the elements and following initial inspection, they were not installed pursuant to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Both the pedestals and electric substations are experiencing electrical grounding as a result of corrosion, according to the complaint. The breakers are also exhibiting external signs of corrosion and an interior examination revealed both corrosion and moisture intrusion, creating a power path from interior line parts to exterior surfaces.
The harbor district also alleges it is losing revenue as a result of the project’s electric metering system not functioning properly.
Meanwhile, the potable water and fire suppression systems, including pipes, valves, piping supports, seismic restraints and expansion controls were constructed with dissimilar metals, resulting in corrosion, according to the complaint.
The fire suppression system is non-operational, according to the harbor’s complaint.
The steel guide piles exceed the design criteria for plumbness and alignment allowable variances and will not work to survive the 50-year design expectation with limited damage, according to the complaint.
The complaint also alleges there are multiple cracks at the joints between the docks and pilings and the Unibolts holding the docks together are not of the grade in quality called for in the project specifications, making them susceptible to erosion.
“The defects in design, manufacture and installation at the project have resulted in damage to the system components, created life-safety issues and negatively impacted the useful and intended life of the project,” the harbor district’s complaint states. “As a result of the defendants’ work... CCHD has sustained losses and damage to the subject property, which has required and continues to require repair work.”
In its cross complaint against the harbor district, Wayne Maples Plumbing and Heating alleges the Crescent City Harbor District made changes to the potable water and fire protection systems.
“...CCHD" target="_blank">class="s1">“...CCHD itself had changed out most of the plumbing system and altered the original work performed by claimant,” the cross complaint states. “Claimant is informed and believes and thereon alleges CCHD is responsible in whole or in part for the damages it seeks through its first amended complaint.”
Since the harbor district rejected the cross complaint brought against it by Wayne Maples Plumbing and Heating, the defendant will proceed with filing the complaint, said Todd Jones, the company’s attorney.
Ward Stover, owner of Crescent City-based Stover Engineering, also filed a cross complaint, but according to his attorney Bruce Furukawa, it’s a preemptive measure in case it comes out in the lawsuit that another party caused the damages the harbor district alleges.
“We don’t know at that point if that’s the case, but we filed against the contractors just in case it later turns out that way,” Furukawa said. “We don’t have any specific facts or evidence that says they were at fault. We’re trying to understand the claims by the (harbor) district and determine to the extent we are claimed to have been the cause. It’s a possibility we are not the cause of those damages and it might be one of the contractors who was.”
A representative of Dutra Construction was not available for comment by press time on Monday. According to Luna, a case management conference pertaining to the lawsuit is scheduled for January.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.