Dickinson's Martin Construction favored in $3M lawsuitA judge ruled in favor of Dickinson-based Martin Construction in a more than $3 million lawsuit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a judgment published Tuesday.
A judge ruled in favor of Dickinson-based Martin Construction in a more than $3 million lawsuit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a judgment published Tuesday.
The suit is regarding construction of a marina and other infrastructure, which began in 2007 at Fort Stevenson State Park near Garrison on Lake Sakakawea.
The corps terminated Martin Construction’s contract, claiming the company didn’t meet its timeline.
The corps denied its design mistake and blamed the contractor, Judge Thomas Wheeler of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims stated in the judgment.
“We have the merit now to meet with the corps and get our financial justice,” said Kurt Martin, president of Martin Construction. “But it also takes a black mark off our record that we were unjustly given.”
The corps’ design engineer “grossly underestimated the amount of water that would flow through the stage one cofferdam,” Wheeler stated in the judgment.
He added the estimated flow rate was 77 times too low.
The miscalculations caused “extreme safety problems,” Martin said.
“It was unbelievable when I was working for my government that that’s what they were putting me through,” he added. “We were out there doing the job and working under conditions that were way, way too unsafe, but it was conditions the corps was forcing us to be under.”
The corps declined comment.
“We just received the judgment of the court and we’re reviewing it at this time,” said Maggie Oldham, spokesperson for U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Omaha District.
The corps’ termination of the contract with Martin by default was improper because of the corps’ defective design and its waiver of a completion date, the judgment stated.
“The most troubling aspect of this case is the corps’ adamant refusal to accept any responsibility for its defective design, even while Martin made every effort to comply with it,” Wheeler stated in the judgment.
Michael Payne, a Philadelphia attorney who represented Martin Construction, called the decision “a complete vindication.”
“The contractor is now entitled to all of the cost that he incurred up to the time that he was terminated,” Payne said. “It is yet to be determined how much that will be, but it certainly could be $3 million. It will be something that will have to be negotiated with the corps and if the parties can’t agree, then there could be another trial on how much.”
Martin said the claims against the corps are “solid,” but added it can contest them.
“Hopefully the corps just sits down and works out a favorable deal and quits spending taxpayers’ money on this deal,” he said.
After it terminated the contract, other contractors were hired to complete the project, Martin said.
“I think it’s a case that kind of demonstrates what’s really happening to our government,” Martin said. “That this kind of money is just wasted over something where the change was cheaper than all the money that was wasted and the time and the lost productivity on both sides.”
Wheeler stated in the judgment the project didn’t need to end in litigation.
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims held a four-day trial in March in Omaha, Neb. Closing arguments were heard Nov. 18 in Washington D.C., according to the judgment.
The court will schedule a conference within 30 days to schedule proceedings to resolve the remainder of the case, the judgment stated.
Attempts to contact Wheeler and attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice, who defended the corps, were unsuccessful Tuesday.