Keeping Time

An engineering firm on the East Coast is suing because it says it hasn’t been paid for services rendered. In the case, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the firm says it’s owed as much as $650,000 in unpaid invoices. We all know how important accounts receivables are in the AEC industry, and an outstanding amount of that magnitude must hurt. A lot.

The work and the disputed invoices are tied to subcontracted inspection services on the $1.5B replacement of the Goethals Bridge from Elizabeth, New Jersey to Staten Island, a six-lane span over the Arthur Kill. Among other claims, the plaintiff is alleging Unjust Enrichment, saying the defendants received the contractual services but kept the money instead of paying it out. The plaintiff is demanding a jury trial, which has yet to be set.

Meanwhile, one of the defendants has responded with allegations of their own. In its counterclaim – a claim denied by the plaintiff – the defendant says the plaintiff’s timesheets were problematic and did not adhere to the specifications of the subcontract. The counterclaimant contends that signed time sheets appear to not have been “individually signed by the subconsultant employees but, rather, were signed with an electronic signature or a copy of a previous signature that was affixed to the time sheet, or, in some instances, by a signature that does not appear to be the employees’.”

The defendant also accuses the subcontracting firm, among other things, of double-dipping. “Upon information and belief [the subcontracting firm] submitted redacted time sheets which concealed that some of the time charged to the project was also charged to other projects and invoiced to other clients.”

The defendant is claiming Breach of Contract and Unjust Enrichment. What a mess. The good news is that the bridge from New Jersey to Staten Island is done. It was finished in late 2018 and is open to the public. It features 12-foot wide shoulders, a central strip to accommodate public transit, and a bike path. The bridge over troubled waters, on the other hand, is still under construction.

Outer Space

Did you know there’s a spaceport on Kodiak Island in Alaska? The facility provides “access to planetary orbital space for commercial and government interests.” The Alaska Aerospace Corporation is a public corporation of the state of Alaska, created in 1991, and it owns and operates the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska.

Well, a few years back, one of its facilities, the Spacecraft Assembly and Transfer facility, was damaged during a launch. The SCAT, as it’s known, is integral to the spaceport’s operations. It’s a mobile, roller-mounted structure used to transport launch vehicles and payload assemblies to the actual launch site.

During the lead-up to the repairs, an engineering firm determined that the existing SCAT rails did not have to be replaced. So, they weren’t. But, according to a lawsuit pending in US District Court for the District of Alaska, the rollers atop the SCAT rails did need to be replaced. So, they were. And that’s where the trouble began.

According to the suit, filed by the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, the wrong kind of rollers were installed and, last year, aerospace officials noticed that the rails had started to deform, bending downward and that a convex groove had formed on top of the rails. The result? More new rollers and a new set of rails. Alaska Aerospace blamed the engineers, making claims of Breach of Contract, Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealings, and Professional Negligence.

Thoughts of outer space have intrigued mankind for a long time. The moon landing. Mars. The International Space Station. And, of course, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Alien. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, over 5,000 “objects” launched into outer space are in orbit at this time. A handful of those have blasted off from the Kodiak Island facility for weather and communications purposes. This lawsuit reminds us that it’s okay to gaze into the stars, as long as you have a good pair of boots on the ground.

If you know of an interesting or off-kilter story taking place in the AEC industry, please contact C+S at rmassey@zweiggroup.com.

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