The Johnson Street Bridge is at the centre of a legal entanglement consisting of three lawsuits between the City of Victoria and several contractors.
While the number may sound forboding, project director Jonathan Huggett said that some suits are simply placeholders for potential claims.
“We have to distinguish a lawsuit that’s filed, versus a lawsuit that’s served,” he explained. “There’s a two- year statute of limitation from the date from which you had a claim to the time you’re allowed to file the claim. You’ll often find companies will file a potential claim simply to preserve their rights.”
A suit between design consultant WSP Canada Group and the City is an example of one suit filed.
In the claim, WSP is asking the city for $297,000 for work in regards to fendering on the north side of the bridge.
“WSP and fendering is an ongoing discussion,” Huggett said. “They’re doing ongoing work for us at no cost on the fendering…. The relationships with WSP is good and we’re trying to solve it. I doubt that it will ever end up in court.”
The city is also facing a suit from the bridge’s general contractor, PCL Westcoast Ltd. for failure to provide design changes to PCL in “a timely manner” and for unreasonable design changes.
“PCL is suing the city, because PCL only had a contract with the City,” Hugget said, adding that Victoria had nothing to do with designing the bridge. “If PCL thinks that [design sub-contractor] Hardesty & Hannover, or WSP did something wrong, the only way to go after them is to go after the City.”
In that same suit, WSP and Hardesty & Hannover LLC are listed as defendants.
A third suit is between PCL and the company they sub-contracted to oversee steel fabrication in China, Atema Inc.
In a served B.C. Supreme Court civil claim, Atema is suing PCL and the City for hundreds of thousands of dollars, saying PCL owes Atema nearly $172,000 in unpaid invoices, recovery fees and interest, while the City owes them nearly $91,000 for funds held back in liens.
In a counter-claim PCL claims Atema acted “negligently” and breached their contract when they “failed to perform” their services with the expected standards or with good industry practice, for which PCL “suffered loss and damage.”
In a response, Atema denies any negligence or breach of contract.
Huggett wasn’t phased by the multiple suits, saying he’s worked in construction for over 40 years.
“When you get a contract like this and reach the end, you’re gonna throw mud at everyone and see what sticks,” he said.