Photo of Houston Methodist Hospital

Having teamed up to service the Houston Methodist Hospital during a separate project in 2018, general contractor and joint venture AECOM Hunt and subcontractor Walker Engineering have partnered again in 2021 to construct the Houston Methodist Child Care Center — resulting in an unpaid construction work claim worth $4.3 million. 

According to the Harris County clerk’s office, both Walker Engineering and fellow subcontractor Johnson Controls are owed a combined $4,365,158.82 for their work in constructing the Child Care Center, located at 2100 S. Braeswood Boulevard, Houston, Texas. The lien affidavits name Methodist Hospital as the property owner, the main structure of which is located at 7550 Greenbriar St., Houston, Texas. 

Walker Engineering, which claims they are owed $4,346,333.88 for electrical work, filed their unpaid construction work claim — also known as a mechanics lien — on February 12, 2021.

Johnson Controls claims they are owed $18,824.94 after filing their claim on January 29, 2021, for providing “life safety” materials to the project, according to the lien affidavit. 

A mechanics lien is a debt recovery tool used by unpaid contractors. The lien is attached to the property title until the claim has been satisfied. As an active lien, the filing may prevent a property owner from selling or refinancing. If a lien is enforced -— through the process of filing an official lawsuit — the property owner may also be forced to forfeit their property if the claimant is successful in enforcing the lien. 

AECOM Hunt has yet to file a mechanics lien against the Houston Methodist Hospital, according to the Harris County clerk’s office. 

“Clearly there’s a major dispute going on,” said Robert Lovein, managing partner of Lovein Ribman, a Texas construction law firm. “Disputes can also arise with change orders. There may be a bunch of unapproved change orders out there, and that’s what [AECOM Hunt] and [Methodist Hospital] may be fighting about.

Read more: Guide to Change Orders in Construction

“It could be an issue with [AECOM Hunt’s] quality of work or it could be an issue with the owner. Slow paying, financing trouble, things like that,” Lovein said. “You’re talking January and February of 2021 and it’s only March now — it’s not surprising at all that [both subcontractors] haven’t gotten paid yet, in my opinion.”

For smaller subcontractors looking to work with large-scale construction companies such as AECOM Hunt or Walker Engineering on high-dollar projects, Lovein suggests a construction attorney can help prepare contractors for the task at hand. 

Read more: Subcontractor’s Guide to Working with AECOM 

“Don’t go sign someone’s subcontract without having it reviewed by a construction attorney,” said Lovein. “Surprisingly, especially in today’s market where labor is more at a demand than it’s ever been, subcontractors actually have more leverage than they think. But, unfortunately, some subs are so excited to finally get on a big project that the first thing they do is sign that contract without it being reviewed.” 

AECOM and Walker both serviced Houston Methodist Hospital in 2018

In February of 2018, Walker Engineering wrapped up construction while working under AECOM Hunt at the Houston Methodist Hospital North Campus expansion project. 

According to Walker Engineering’s project page, the project spanned 935,000 square feet. Walker Engineergin’s contract amount was worth $78 million. 

Walker Engineering, AECOM Hunt, Johnson Controls, and the Houston Methodist Church have yet to be reached for comments.