Connecticut Supreme Court Set to Hear High Profile Construction Law Case
This spring, the Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to hear argument in Centerplan Construction Company, LLC, et al. v. City of Hartford, a construction law case related to the development and construction of the Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford.
This case was initially brought before the Superior Court by Centerplan Construction Company, LLC and DoNo Hartford LLC, the original developers of the Dunkin’ Donuts Park, after the City terminated its agreement with the developers due to significant delays and overruns for the Project. The City later cut ties with the original developers completely by terminating an agreement to redevelop the surrounding properties.
The construction of the Dunkin’ Donuts Park commenced in early 2015, with the first game scheduled for a little over a year from the start date. By January of 2016, when Mayor Luke Bronin came into office, the construction of the Park was months behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget. Mayor Bronin and the developers reached a new agreement that increased the cost of the Project by another $5.5 million and postponed the date of substantial completion from March to mid-May, so that the first game could be played at the end of May. In late May, Mayor Bronin notified Arch Insurance Co., Centerplan’s surety that guaranteed the Project, that the city would be calling the $47.1 million bond on the Project. Days before the new opening date, an inspection of the Project found nearly 300 unfinished items, including nonfunctioning hot water pipes, uninspected elevators, and a faulty scoreboard. After missing the May deadline and requesting an additional 60 days to finish the Project, Centerplan was terminated in June. Arch Insurance took over the Project and hired a new contractor to finish the work. The Park opened a year later than anticipated, causing the Park’s home team, the Hartford Yard Goats, to play their first season exclusively on the road.
As a result of being terminated, Centerplan was also sued by Arch Insurance. In turn, the developers brought suit against the City to recover, in part, consequential and restitution damages from the City for the amount needed to be paid to Arch Insurance. In total, the developers sought to recover $90 million in damages from the City. The City filed a counterclaim against the developers alleging breach of contract, negligence, and professional malpractice related to the construction delays, cost overruns, and alleged defects and deficiencies in the design of the Park.
At trial, the developers argued that they were prevented from finishing the project in a timely manner because of the City’s frequent design changes made late in the Project and due to the rising prices for steel and cement. The City maintained that the developers were in control of those design changes, which were attempts to correct mistakes and make adjustments caused by departures from the original plans. The City also asserted that the developers knew that the changes at issue had to be made.
After a 4-week trial, the jury ruled in the City’s favor, agreeing that the developers were the ones that altered the plans after the original agreement. Therefore, the jury ordered the developers to pay the City $335,000 in damages for the cost overruns, delays, and deficient work on the Project. Following the jury’s ruling, the trial court granted the City’s motion to dismiss the developers’ lien on the property.
The developers appealed to the Appellate Court, and successfully moved to transfer the appeal from the Appellate Court to the Supreme Court. The developers argue that the trial court committed error in (1) concluding that the developers were responsible for the architect’s errors and omissions in, and changes to, the design of the Project, (2) treating Centerplan and DoNo as a single entity for purposes of the lawsuit, (3) failing to adequately instruct the jury on concurrent delay, and (4) directing the jury to award liquidated damages to the City without allowing it to consider offsetting the benefit conferred by the developers on the City.
The City has asserted that the trial court did not commit error because (1) the parties’ agreement unambiguously gave the developers control over and responsibility for the architect’s design of the Park, (2) the developers were not entitled to notice or an opportunity to cure the defaults for which they were terminated, (3) the trial court properly instructed the jury on the issue of multiple causes of the construction delay, (4) the trial judge correctly instructed the jury on liquidated damages, and (5) the developers have failed to demonstrate any error in the trial court’s discharge of the lis pendens and it cannot be reinstated now.
Considering the high-profile nature of the case, the issues of construction law presented therein and the potential impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Centerplan Construction Company, LLC, et al. v. City of Hartford is a case of particular interest for professionals in the construction industry to watch before the Connecticut Supreme Court this spring.
Please feel free to contact the following individuals at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. with any questions or to inquire as to representation related to these topics:
Attorney Donald Doeg is the Chair of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy’s Construction Practices Group and is also a Professional Engineer. His practice includes representing clients in all aspects of a project from inception through the design and construction phases, as well as with any disputes that may arise during the process. He can be reached at email@example.com or at (860) 548-2638.
Attorney Richard Dighello is the Chair of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy’s Product Liability and Toxic Tort Practice Group and a member of the Construction Practices Group. Attorney Dighello practices primarily in the areas of product liability, construction law, commercial litigation and asbestos defense. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (860) 548-2633.
Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, PC would like to thank Jeffrey Renaud for his contributions to this article.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this material is not intended to be considered legal advice and should not be acted upon as such. Because of the generality of this material, the information provided may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without legal advice based on the specific factual circumstances.