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Platform Tools Fed. Claims Court Sends $3.7M Miami Dredging Row To Trial

Law360 - March 14, 2014

By: Kelly Knaub

Law360, New York (March 14, 2014, 8:02 PM ET) -- The U.S. Court of Federal Claims refused to grant summary judgment on Friday to either the government or Weston/Bean Joint Venture in a suit seeking $3.7 million for work WBJV performed dredging the Miami River, saying a trial was necessary.

The court said that questions of material fact appear to exist in WBJV’s claims that the 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ contract roped the company into work that stretched beyond the scope of the job, which called for the removal of some 750,000 cubic yards of sediment from a 5.5-mile tract of a federal navigation channel in Florida.

WBJV claims the contract specifications were flawed because excavation of the channel could only be completed by removing rock and other material below the sediment, a measure it contends was explicitly not part of the contract work.

“In light of the standards applicable to differing site conditions claims and upon consideration of the parties’ lengthy briefs and exhibits, the court concludes that the ‘better course’ here is to deny the cross motions for summary judgment and proceed to a full trial,” the decision said. “There appear to exist several significant areas of material fact in dispute with respect to the central claim in this case.”

According to 
the complaint, the contract required WBJV to excavate accumulated soil that had been previously dredged but naturally drifted back into the channel over several decades. The dredge template purportedly called for a 15-foot excavation and barred the company from dredging within 10 feet of docks, industrial facilities and other waterfront structures.

WBJV says it began dredging operations, as planned, in fall 2004, but quickly found that it would be unable to dredge to the 15-foot mark in certain places without hitting rock.

“I just feel that the judge issued a very fair decision and was correct in her conclusion, and that this is sort of a case where they’re going to need to have both fact testimony and expert testimony before the court can make a decision on whether or not WBJV is entitled to recover under its differing site conditions claim,” WBJV attorney Michael Payne of Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC told Law360 on Friday.

The case is Weston/Bean Joint Venture v. U.S., case numbers 11-31C and 11-360C, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

--Additional reporting by Derek Hawkins. Editing by Edrienne Su.

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