Lafarge settles lawsuit for poor quality concrete

A Steamboat Springs homeowners group has settled a years-long lawsuit related to concrete problems.

The Torian Plum Condo?minium Owners Association sued ConnellResources on May 18, 2007, accusing Connell of breach of contract. Theassociation said concrete “was improper or improperly installed” atTorian Plum Plaza, Connell Contracts Administrator Doug Anderson said.The suit was filed in Routt County District Court.

The lawsuit grew tangled, with Connell bringing a claim against itsconcrete contractor and the contractor bringing a claim against itsconcrete supplier. All parties were part of the March 13 settlement,which awarded $294,000 to Torian Plum, said Reed Morris, lead counselfor the owners association with Ralph Cantafio.

The settlement came on the last day of a two-week jury trial.

“While the judge was reading his final instructions to the jury, theattorneys involved stood up and asked to speak to the judge over on theside and informed him that a settlement had been reached,” Andersonsaid.

Morris said he was happy with the result.

“What Torian was seeking was the amount to essentially remove andreplace the plaza,” Morris said. “The original plaza in 2004 costapproximately $265,000.”

The work addressed in the lawsuit was performed in 2004. ConnellResources was the general contractor. Routt County Concrete, alsoreferred to as Snow Country Concrete, subcontracted to install theconcrete. That company bought the material from Lafarge West.

“Within the first year, the plaza began exhibiting signs of scalingand deterioration that became progressively worse and worse over time,”Morris said. “That was the real thrust and the primary problem with theplaza. Gener??ally speaking, it was a construction defect case.”

Connell filed a claim against Routt County Concrete, which filed aclaim against Lafarge. Anderson said Connell tried to work with theTorian Plum group to resolve the concerns. Morris also said the partiestried to reach a settlement before going to trial.

“Connell Resources denied the allegations in the complaint, and wealso believe the homeowners association may have been at least possiblyresponsible for the damages they had, so it was disputed in severalrespects,” Anderson said.

Snow Country Concrete de??clined to comment. The company’s attorneydidn’t return a call seeking comment late Wednesday afternoon, nor didthe lawyer representing Lafarge.

In a Feb. 20, 2009, trial brief, Routt County Concrete accusedLafarge of destroying documents related to the concrete it supplied forthe Torian Plum project.

“Lafarge negligently spoliated documentation it knew, or should haveknown, was to be preserved: the mix designs of the concrete itprovided. RCC is entitled to a negative inference that Lafarge didnot properly design the concrete in accordance with the project’sspecifications,” the brief stated.

Calls to Lafarge West’s offices were not returned. In a trial brieffiled Feb. 20, 2009, Lafarge outlined its stance. The brief stated thatRoutt County Concrete gave limited instructions in its order.

“Routt County Concrete never actually disclosed the projectspecifications to Lafarge,” the document states. “Rather, Routt CountyConcrete simply ordered concrete of a particularly specification fromLafarge, which Lafarge then delivered to the project. There is simplyno evidence that the concrete supplied by Lafarge did not meet theordered specifications.”

The concrete hasn’t been replaced, Morris said. He said his clients were satisfied with the $294,000 settlement.

“The evidence that we put out in terms of damages were approximatelythat amount, slightly north of there,” he said. “At the time the casesettled, we hadn’t actually done our closing arguments and given thatfinal number or asked the jury yet.”

Anderson, of Connell, said there were pros and cons to anysettlement agreement. In this case, striking a deal made sense, he said.

“It was not clear what the verdict was going to be, and the partiesall decided to compromise,” he said, “and they decided it was in theirindividual best interests to do so.”

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