By: Hailey Konnath
Michael Payne, Chair of the firm’s Government Contracting Group, is quoted in the Law360 article in regard to his representation of Meridian Engineering Co.
Law360 (September 24, 2019, 11:39 PM EDT) — The federal government is liable for flood-related damages and suspension of work in a $5.8 million flood-control project in Nogales, Arizona, that was never completed, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled Monday, awarding an engineering contractor $1.86 million in damages.
The dispute centers on a contract between Meridian Engineering Co. and the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers that called for the demolition and reconstruction of a highway bridge, excavation of a flood control channel and replacement of a sewage pipeline, according to Meridian’s 2011 suit. But the project was plagued by poor government planning and inaccurate specifications that repeatedly brought the undertaking to a halt, Meridian alleged.
In its suit, Meridian was looking to recover $7.6 million. However, the Federal Claims court in 2014 found the government wasn’t liable for flood-event damages, but granted Meridian an award just shy of $1 million on other claims.
Meridian appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ordered the Federal Claims court to reconsider several claims, including the claim for flood-event damages.
On Monday, Federal Claims Judge Charles F. Lettow found the government liable for those flood-event damages and several other claims related to the project’s delays, this time awarding Meridian $1.86 million in damages plus interest accrued since January 2011. As of last week, the government owed $378,000 in interest, Judge Lettow noted.
Specifically, the government had argued that the contract assigned the risk of flooding to Meridian. But Judge Lettow ruled that the releases the government said precluded relief didn’t address future flood events and that there hadn’t been a “meeting of the minds” in which the parties agreed to the scope of the releases.
“Simply put, the government cannot escape liability for flood damages when the government is responsible for causing the contractor to be working during the flood-prone season,” Judge Lettow said.
Michael Payne, counsel for Meridian, told Law360 on Tuesday that he and his client are “pleased with the result.”