City of Charlotte sued for $115M by Hawthorne Lane Bridge contractor
The lawsuit lays out what the plaintiffs say were a series of “massive alterations to the original plans,” workhour restrictions, delayed approval of storm drain structures and threats to assess liquidated damages.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – A construction company is suing the city of Charlotte for more than $100 million in what it says is a breach of contract in the replacement of the Hawthorne Lane Bridge.
Attorneys for the Texas-based Johnson Brothers Corporation (JBC) filed the lawsuit against the city on Feb. 20.
Court records state the company was awarded a contract on Nov. 28, 2016, for the CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2 Streetcar Project, which would further expand the city’s surface light rail systems. Their $89 million bid was the lowest submitted.
The work included the replacement of the Hawthorne Lane Bridge over Independence Boulevard.
The lawsuit then lays out what the plaintiffs say were a series of “massive alterations to the original plans,” workhour restrictions, delayed approval of storm drain structures and threats to assess liquidated damages.
Company officials also allege the city failed or refused to abide by the detailed traffic control plans, making workers allow one lane in each direction for any and all traffic, regardless of whether the vehicle was traveling within the work zone.
Plan alterations also prevented JBC and its subcontractors from adhering to the traffic control plans, “thereby materially and drastically changing the character and scope of the Project as represented by the City at the time of bid,” the lawsuit states.
Issues that JBC states it faced as a result of the alterations, according to court documents, included:
- Limited access and restricted freedom of movement
- Reduced material laydown areas
- Additional excavation and backfill
- Double and triple handling of materials
- Multiple traffic shifts and relocations
- Inefficient piecemeal construction
JBC also claimed in the lawsuit that the city failed or refused to coordinate the work of at least 15 other contractors within the active work zones, and officials delayed and withheld approval of precast storm drain structures.
This latter issue forced the company to construct and install brick-built storm drain boxes on site and in place, ultimately requiring more men working in more locations for longer periods of time in areas “unduly congested” due to the city’s traffic control requirements, court records state.
The lawsuit alleges the city’s design for the reconstruction of Hawthorne Lane Bridge included numerous errors, omissions and discrepancies. JBC officials said they worked with an independent engineering firm to find viable solutions.
“Instead, the City chose to disregard the proposals, refused to analyze a time and cost-effective solution, and mandated a full ‘remove and replace’ option,” court documents state.
The company claims the city refused compensation for the extra work to solve “issues caused by errors and omissions in the design plans.”
On Feb. 14, 2018, city officials informed JBC that progress on the work was unsatisfactory and they threatened anticipated liquidated damages, according to the lawsuit. Weeks later, the company responded by saying that any delays, court records state, were the results of:
- Changes to the traffic control plans
- A failure to obtain encroachment agreements
- Severe weather
- Delayed review of submittals by the city and an inability to use precast structures
- Changes to the storm drain system on Hawthorne Lane
- Gas line conflict at the intersection of 7th Street and Hawthorne Lane
“All of these causes for inefficiencies and delays were wholly outside the control of JBC,” the lawsuit states.
JBC alleges that problems progressed into 2020, including “extremely limited Project access,” the city never relinquishing withheld liquidated damages and the continued assessment of further damages for delays company officials said were outside of their control, court documents state.
“Despite the heavily altered conditions that JBC experienced, as well as the City’s refusal to cooperate or alleviate those altered conditions, JBC was able, through additional effort and acceleration of its operations, to mitigate its damages, substantially complete the Project, and turn it over to the City,” the lawsuit states.
The Hawthorne Lane Bridge reopened to vehicle traffic in December 2020 after being closed for three years, impacting nearby businesses.
JBC officials claim in the lawsuit they submitted numerous claim letters to the city and did not get a substantive response to those letters, other than the city continuing to withhold liquidated damages against the company and refusing compensation.
“To date, JBC’s claims against the City, including the pass-through claims of its subcontractors total in excess of $115,000,000,” court documents state.
Attorneys for the company are asking for a judgment in favor of JBC for that amount, plus interest and attorneys’ fees.
A spokesperson for the City of Charlotte said they do not publicly comment on pending litigation.
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