Defendants in port suit hold their ground
All three defendants in a lawsuit the Municipality of Anchorage filed March 8 over the bungled Port of Anchorage expansion project have firmly denied liability and asked for dismissal in court responses to the municipality’s claims.
PND Engineers, Inc., designer of the Open Cell Sheet Pile dock system at the center of the controversy, and CH2M Hill, owner of former port consultant VECO Alaska, filed responses April 17.
Integrated Concepts and Research Corp., or ICRC, filed a motion for dismissal in U.S. District Court in Anchorage April 15. ICRC was hired by the U.S. Maritime Administration, or MARAD, in 2003 to oversee the port construction. The Port of Anchorage project was at the time the first large construction project MARAD had led.
CH2M Hill recently released two studies that claim PND’s sheet pile design is inadequate for use at Anchorage’s port and offer construction alternatives. The engineering firm was engaged by the municipality to conduct the studies for about $2.6 million. PND has refuted CH2M Hill’s findings claiming that the firm did not follow the same engineering criteria that PND was ordered to follow when it fabricated the sheet pile design for the port.
PND’s stance continues to be that shoddy installation of the sheet piles by subcontractors caused the dock structure to not meet seismic and stability standards.
The municipality originally filed suit in state court but the case has since been moved to federal District Court. Federal Judge Ralph Beistline is presiding over the case.
While the suit does not specify specific damage amounts, it states the municipality has suffered “damages in excess of $100,000” because of actions by each of the defending parties.
CH2M Hill and PND both ask for the case counts of negligence against them to be thrown out and request the municipality be required to pay all legal fees they incurred as a result of the suit.
CH2M Hill claims it is no longer liable under VECO’s 2006 contract with PND because the statute of limitations on such an agreement has expired. Alaska law requires action over a disputed work contract be taken within three years under most circumstances.
In its motion, ICRC disputes the municipality’s claim of a breach of contract by stating that it never actually entered into a contract with the municipality. Rather, ICRC purports that its role was to “provide discrete contract management assistance in support of the project,” the document states. ICRC adds that it never stepped outside the bounds of the contract it signed with MARAD.
The municipality entered into a memorandum of understanding with MARAD to manage the engineering and construction of its port shortly before MARAD brought ICRC into the fold.
ICRC also contends the municipality did not follow proper procedure by leaving MARAD out of the suit.
“If the claims against ICRC are allowed to continue, MARAD would be a party to this litigation all but in name and in right,” the motion asserts.
According to the ICRC, MARAD is obligated to pay its legal fees in accordance with the contract between the two.
Lastly, ICRC states that because MARAD is largely immune from litigation because of its standing as a sovereign government agency unless a contract or law was broken. This means, from ICRC’s view, that because the municipality cannot go after MARAD for damages, ICRC is also safe.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].