Washington State University defendant in construction suit

Washington State University has become embroiled in construction litigation over work done on a campus building.

In the fall of 2009, construction started on the new Engineering and Computer Science Building on campus, which opened this past January. A construction company in Portland, Oregon, won the bid for the $38.5 million building, subcontracting some of the work out to specialists.

One of those subcontractors in turn entered a contract to purchase pumps, tanks and accessories for the wastewater treatment system. The contract was solely for the delivery of the items -- not the installation -- for a $50,000 fee, according to the supplier.

Now, the supplier has filed a suit in Washington's Clark County Superior Court. The suit contends that because the subcontractor fell behind on the workload, it asked the supplier to install the system as well. The supplier billed an additional amount of almost $20,000, stating that the original contract did not call for installation.

The subcontractor does not agree and refuses to pay the invoice. The subcontractor contends that the system should have been assembled and installed upon delivery and that no additional compensation is due.

When the subcontractor did not pay, the supplier hired a Seattle attorney to try to solve the dispute outside of court. When that did not occur, the supplier filed suit, naming the subcontractor, the university and the issuer of the construction bonds for the project, seeking payment and legal fees. The university has yet to comment on the matter.

As with any contract, both sides in a construction lawsuit must always agree as to the scope of work to be performed by each party. Before one side undertakes work that it does not believe it is responsible for, the parties should work together to review the contract and agree who must do what job. Should a supplemental contract need to be signed, both sides would be wise to do so. And when the contract is in dispute, further legal action may be necessary.

Source: The Columbian, "WSU drawn into Oregon contractor's lawsuit," Jacques Von Lunen, June 4, 2012

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