Washington state supreme court won't hear Brightwater lawsuit

14 September 2016

The Washington State Supreme Court has declined to review a lower court ruling that affirmed King County is entitled to more than USD 129M in damages from a tunnelling contractor that defaulted on key contractual obligations as part of the Brightwater tunnel construction, the county announced September 12.

This order confirms the previous judgment in King County Superior Court, which was upheld by the Washington State Court of Appeals.

“The ruling by the state Supreme Court is a victory for King County ratepayers,” said King County executive Dow Constantine. “We will use the funds we recovered on behalf of our customers to protect water quality throughout the region.”

In December 2012, a jury awarded King County USD 155.8M in damages after finding Brightwater tunnelling contractor Vinci Construction Grands Projets/Parsons RCI/Frontier-Kemper (VPFK) defaulted on key contractual obligations. The judgment was adjusted to USD 129.6M to reflect the jury’s award of USD 26.2M to the contractor.

The Supreme Court has accepted review of a separate petition filed by the performance bond surety providers that appeals the award of more than USD 15M for legal fees to King County.

VPFK was awarded the USD 212M construction contract to build the two central Brightwater conveyance tunnels in 2006. It was the second of four Brightwater construction contracts to build a 13-mile (21km) tunnel to carry treated wastewater from the treatment plant north of Woodinville to a deep-water marine outfall in Puget Sound.

King County said, two TBMs required extensive repairs that threatened to delay the completion of Brightwater’s conveyance tunnel by up to three years. Though VPFK repaired one machine and completed a 2.2-mile (3.54km) tunnel drive between Kenmore and Bothell in 2011, the County could not accept the lengthy delay and additional cost the contractor proposed for the repair of the second machine to complete tunnelling.

Joint venture contractor Jay Dee/Coluccio completed mining on the final 1.9-mile (3km) section of Brightwater tunnel in August 2011. The tunnel has been in full operation for nearly four years.