Two Alabama contractors are at odds in a breach of contract suit and payment dispute overwork performed on the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Pelham, Alabama electrical company Wayne J. Griffin Inc. has brought a lawsuit against Montgomery-based general contractors Caddell Construction alleging breach of subcontract and breach of payment bond to recover damages totaling over $1 million.
The suit — filed on October 20, 2021, in the US District Court, Northern District of Alabama Western Division — concerns electrical and telecommunications work performed in and around the 100,077-seat football stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama from 2019 to 2020.
Contracted by the University’s Board of Trustees for $84,648,203 in September of 2019, Caddell soon thereafter began the hiring process for their 80% role in the $106 million total renovation project.
Entering into a subcontract with WJGEI on November 14, 2019, Caddell agreed to pay $9,128,295 for work chiefly concerning the addition of two large video scoreboards in the corners of the stadium and other improvements to premium seating areas and lounges, according to the subcontract
That same day, Caddell and WJGEI immediately executed a change order to the subcontract, which contained numerous provisions revolving around the scheduling of the project — which was set to begin directly after the Alabama Crimson Tide football team had completed their final home game of the 2019 season against Western Carolina University — and payment parameters.
With a mutually agreed upon substantial completion date set for August 14, 2020 — a month before Alabama’s originally scheduled home opener against Georgia State (that was later canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic) — WJEIC mobilized to begin their work, according to the Criminal Complaint document entered in court.
On January 25, 2021, Tuscaloosa firefighters responded to reports of a construction accident that occurred at the 90-year-old stadium around 5 p.m. According to several media reports, two steel structural precast beams set for placement on the west side of Bryant-Denny collided after one was moved by a crane and fell on a lift manned by two other subcontract workers with Gate Construction Materials Group.
After the fallen beam trapped both men inside for some time, both were extracted and taken to DCH Regional Medical Center where the two were pronounced in critical condition with multiple lacerations. According to television station ABC 33/40, a coworker anonymously reported that one worker was paralyzed — to what extent is still not known — while the other sustained “massive head trauma.”
“A workplace accident has occurred at Bryant-Denny Stadium. We understand two workers with a subcontractor were transported to the hospital by emergency responders,” said Monica Watts, the University of Alabama’s associate vice president for communications in a statement released later that evening. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time. Wallace Wade Avenue and 8th Street at 11th Avenue have been closed until further notice as a precaution.”
Soon after the incident, WJEIC alleges in their complaint that the project was delayed for “several days,” dealing a blow to what Mac Caddell, executive vice president of Caddell, called “a fast-paced job,” with an “extremely tight” schedule in a statement upon winning the contract on September 5, 2019.
Additionally, the suit alleges that in early 2020, the University of Alabama made several design changes to the planned renovations at the stadium which in turn resulted in “tardy completion of work by other subcontractors.”
According to the subcontract’s language following the amendments of the change order, Provision 6e and 6f entailed:
“If Subcontractor’s work is delayed [by] any circumstance caused or contributed to by any party performing a part of the work or furnishing materials for the work, and without contribution by Subcontractor, Subcontractor may request an extension of time for performance of the work.”
The complaint states that critical predecessor deliverables such as the placement of concrete beams, slabs, structural steel, and wall/ceiling framings were not completed in time for WJEIC’s start of principal electrical work in the Spring of 2020. Thus, they requested an extension from Caddell through written impact notices, citing both the aforementioned factors and pandemic-related delays — requests that were swiftly and repeatedly denied well into the summer.
After three written directives from Caddell demanding that WJEIC work more hours per day, weekends, and to increase the total number of work shifts on the project. Despite protesting these demands with evidence citing the need for an extension, WJEIC was still rejected from their addendum requests.
Per the suit, the “overtime directives” from Caddell are the prime reason behind WJEIC’s allegations of over $1 million in damages due to labor inefficiencies arising from these demands. After eventually ceding to the requests and completing all their electric and telecommunications work at the stadium by the deadline — even though they were not the cause of the events that led to the delays — WJEIC requested an adjustment to the subcontract price due to the labor/managerial costs stemming from the acceleration and overtime pay from a seven-day workweek.
According to the court document, Caddell only paid for a single weekend of overtime work, and refused multiple requests to provide WJEIC a complete timetable of the entire project related to other subcontractor performance so they could assess the cause and delay of critical completion “attributable to the Owner, Caddell, the other subcontractors or acts of God.”
Due to the inability to prove their contractual right of a work extension stemming from the lack of resources provided by Caddell as well as their demands for acceleration, WJEIC asserts that Caddell deliberately breached the clauses of both their Payment Bond and Subcontract-Exhibits A and B respectively.
Mark G. Montiel, Jr, with Montiel-Hodge law firm in New Orleans, Louisiana, feels that this case is a “placeholder,” rather than a fully developed lawsuit against the principal drivers of the delays.
“My thought is that WJGEI should be proceeding against the various subcontractors and possibly the Owner depending on the various allegations made in the Complaint in accordance with the provisions contained in Article 6,” Montiel said.
“However, it would appear from the pleading, at least, that Caddell has not been cooperating with them to enforce such a claim for damages against the appropriate subcontractor or Owner.
Noting that the claims of COVID delays are a new development in litigation law, Montiel said that the strategy might be countered against WJGEI, citing that it can be argued that their staffing concerns were ultimately within their control pandemic or not.
“I would assume Caddell will eventually make 3rd party demands against the subcontractors and possibly the Owner to the extent each caused the relevant delays.”
Summons for both Caddell and their insurance company, Connecticut’s Travelers Casualty and Safety Company were issued on October 27, 2021.