Firm denies any culpability for defects found after renovations to stadium

Gilbane Building Co. has asked the county to provide it copies of numerous documents, including those relating to a geotechnical firm’s study of the Ed Smith Stadium grounds

The Orioles play the Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium. File photo

The Rhode Island company Sarasota County has blamed for defects in the renovations of Ed Smith Stadium has countered that the responsibility for the problems lies with the design work and “third parties.”

Furthermore, among a wide-ranging series of documents Gilbane Building Co. formally has requested from the county through the 12th Judicial Circuit Court is all correspondence with Ardaman & Associates.

In the complaint it filed against Gilbane late last year, the county says that on Jan. 13, 2010, it hired Ardaman & Associates of Sarasota, a geotechnical firm, to study and report on the subsurface soil on the stadium grounds. The resulting document, according to the complaint, cited “evidence of buried trash, remnants of [the] former landfill at the site.”

The stadium renovations were part of the agreement the county inked with the Baltimore Orioles to bring the team to Sarasota for Spring Training.

Responding to the Sarasota County complaint filed on Nov. 30, 2016, Gilbane Building Co. — dba Mills Gilbane — says, “Any damages that may have been suffered by the County are the result of intervening or superseding events, factors, occurrences, or conditions, which were in no way caused by Gilbane and for which Gilbane is not responsible or liable.” Instead, the firm says those problems “were due to the acts or omissions of third parties.”

Moreover, Gilbane argues that it performed repairs on concourse flooring beyond the two-year period detailed in its agreement with the county.
Gilbane also contends that the county cannot pursue a claim of negligence against it because its work on the facility — “including selection and supervision of subcontractors and selection and installation of materials” — were detailed in the contract between the firm and the county. Additionally, it says the county’s claims “are barred by the Statute of Limitations.”

In its complaint, the county argues that Gilbane is responsible for cracks in concrete, settlement issues and bubbling in the flooring in the stadium’s concourse areas. The first problems were discovered with the flooring in late February 2011, shortly after the renovations were mostly completed, County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh explained in an Oct 18, 2016 memo to the County Commission.

County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh. File photo

The county is seeking damages of more than $15,000 for each of three counts: breach of contract, breach of implied warranty and negligence.

In its answer, Gilbane says it “is entitled to a set-off for any amounts recovered by the County from any third parties, either under warranty or otherwise …” That means the firm feels it is owed part of any money the county might collect from another party in regard to the stadium defects.

In its answer, Gilbane confirms that in February 2013, its representatives told the county the company would install a methyl methacrylate [MMA) floor covering over all the concourse areas and give the county a two-year warranty on the work. That was detailed in what the county called an “Interim Field Change Agreement,” the answer continues. Documentation about the MMA proposal was provided to the architect for review and approval, as dictated under the terms of the agreement with the county, the answer adds. The MMA floor covering did start to show signs of bubbling and cracking in the summer of 2013, the answer says. Nonetheless, it adds, Gilbane denies that those problems “revealed a latent defect in the material and/or workmanship by Gilbane or anyone for whom Gilbane was responsible.”

The answer also confirms that Gilbane’s subcontractor, Advanced Surfaces Corp., performed warranty work to repair and replace the MMA floor covering in the concourse areas prior to the Orioles’ 2015 Spring Training season, “and that certain problems with the MMA floor covering appeared after this warranty work was completed.” Once again, however, the firm denies culpability for those problems.

And while the county in its complaint says the parties remained at an impasse after discussion of the issues and then mediation, as required by their contract, Gilbane “expressly [denies] that the County has attempted to resolve this matter in good faith through direct discussion and then mediation.”

Subsequent legal steps

The same day Gilbane filed its answer, it also submitted to the court its first request for copies of documents it is seeking from the county. Among them is all correspondence with Ardaman & Associates, including the county’s contract with that firm “to investigate the cause or origin of the issues described [in the county’s complaint] and referring or relating to its findings [as to] the cause and origin [of those problems].”

The Orioles’ mascot, Bird, stands under the ‘chandelier’ in Ed Smith Stadium. File photo

Among the documents Gilbane seeks is a copy of the original Memorandum of Understanding the county signed with the Orioles. Additionally, it has asked for “All daily or periodic logs maintained by [the county] that relate to the care and maintenance of the MMA flooring system” and minutes of any meetings related to the MMA work or other areas of the facility where problems have been identified.

In a third Gilbane filing with the 12th Circuit — on Dec. 22 — William A. DeVan of Alexandria, Va., seeks the court’s permission to serve as the attorney for the firm in this case. The document says he is eligible to practice law in the District of Columbia as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia, but he is not a member of the Florida Bar. Thomas Dart of Adams & Reese of Sarasota, who is a member of the Florida Bar, will serve as local counsel of record, the document notes.