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Blumenthal suing for cost of law library repairs

by Michael Kirk - March 3, 2008

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced Feb. 14 that his office is suing contractors, architects, suppliers, and others who built or helped build the library at the UConn School of Law in Hartford for construction, design, and other flaws.

The flaws resulted in pervasive water leaks and cracked exterior walls.

The action seeks more than $15 million – the estimated cost of repairs – plus damages and other costs.

“The law library building is really a story of a dream diminished,” says University President Michael J. Hogan.

“What was supposed to be a signature piece of architecture has instead turned into a disaster. I’m deeply grateful that the attorney general has launched this initiative.”

The 26-count action against 15 different defendants charges them with negligence, breach of contract, product liability, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation, according to Blumenthal’s office.

“Instead of a landmark law library, contractors left a structural mess and a legal morass,” Blumenthal says.

“These companies did shoddy and substandard work, sticking the law school with a building riddled with leaks, cracks, and defects. Far from lasting 100 years, this structure required massive repairs after barely a decade. The flaws were so fundamental and far-reaching that the building’s exterior must be rebuilt and its moisture protection system replaced. Contractors at every stage – design, construction, installation, inspection – incorporated or ignored obvious flaws, dooming the building to swift deterioration.”

Construction of the $23 million law library, located on the school’s Elizabeth Street campus, started in 1994, before the UConn 2000 program began.

The project was managed by the State Department of Public Works and completed in 1996.

The five-story, 125,000 square foot structure was to be a “landmark” building lasting at least 100 years. Leaks appeared soon after the building’s opening on Jan. 31, 1996, however.

The leaks worsened over the years, damaging books and interior finishes and forcing relocation of books.

Cracks appeared in the building’s façade, necessitating placement of a chain link fence as a precaution.

Engineers eventually had to disassemble parts of the library to fully assess design and construction flaws. They found:

  • The leaks were pervasive, the result of substandard materials, improper installation, and design shortcomings. The leaks were primarily in the windows, walls, and parapets.
  • Anchors securing exterior granite walls are defective, leading to cracks.
  • Sections of the backup walls behind the façade lack steel reinforcing bars.

The suit alleges that the builders, designers, consultants, suppliers, inspectors, and insurers either knew or should have known about the flaws.

“Everyone at the law school is grateful to Attorney General Blumenthal and all the attorneys working on this important case as they seek to recover funds from those responsible for the serious problems with the law library's initial construction,” says Jeremy Paul, dean of the law school.

“Our library collection is not only a flagship asset for our students and faculty, but an invaluable resource for the state's entire legal community. We are pleased that all necessary steps are underway to restore the building to top-flight condition, and we’re confident that the legal system will ensure a just outcome in holding those responsible accountable.”

Fixing the defects requires removing, repairing, and re-anchoring the stone façade; removing and replacing the entire moisture protection system – insulation, waterproofing, and flashing; installing missing steel bar reinforcement in interior walls; and repairing or replacing all windows.

The repair work began in December 2007 and is expected to take about 18 months. The initial phase of repairs confirmed the findings of the forensic engineers.

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