Over the past few years, I’ve posted blogs about the Seattle Viaduct project and the problems Bertha, the tunnel-boring machine, ran into on the project. Not surprisingly, the parties sued each other. And, Big Bertha’s problems continued into the courtroom.
As some of you may recall, Big Bertha was launched with much fanfare, then ran into a pipe and stopped working. The project was finally completed in February, 2019, three years behind schedule.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (“WDOT”) sued for breach of contract because the general contractor failed to meet deadlines. The general contractor then counter-sued for $642 million for repair costs and damages for WDOT’s failure to disclose the pipe.
Trial did not go well for Big Bertha. The court sanctioned Big Bertha’s team for losing key pieces of evidence, including the pipe, two pallets of granite, and the project supervisor’s journals. Then during trial, Big Bertha’s team admitted that it knew about the pipe before it started digging but failed to consider the pipe when it plotted the tunneling course.
The jury was not impressed with Big Bertha’s claim and awarded WDOT $57.2 million. Big Bertha got nothing.
Clearly, this is not what Big Bertha had hoped for in making claims against WDOT, but the outcome is not that odd. Litigation can bring about odd and unexpected results. That’s why it’s so important to have experienced construction attorneys on your side when plotting your litigation course.