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Thursday, November 15, 2012 02:43 am


Negligent Design

BPLW Architects & Engineers, Inc. v. U.S., 2012 U.S. Claims Lexis 1071 (Fed. Cl. Sept. 7, 2012)

By providing a piping design that failed to accommodate more than nine inches of heave, an architect/engineer (A/E) provided negligent design services in breach of its contract. But it isn't liable for so-called resultant repairs.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) hired BPLW Architects & Engineers, Inc. (BPLW) to provide mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineering services for construction of two dormitory buildings at an Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. After the buildings were completed, the below-grade piping system failed, and water collected around the perimeter of the buildings. The Corps paid for repairs. It then filed a claim totaling more than $6.7 million against BPLW for negligent piping and grading designs. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims found that the designs were indeed negligent, but the government was not entitled to recover for repairs where it failed to demonstrate that the design--and not the construction--led to those costs.

Plumbing design held to same standards as structural design

The parties agreed that an MEP engineer must comply with the provided soils report when designing a piping system, but they disputed which of the report's criteria applied to the underfloor piping--the requirement that the system withstand one inch of soil movement, or the requirement that it withstand nine inches of movement.

For the one-inch argument, BPLW pointed to the report's "Mechanical Connections" section, which required a system that could accommodate an inch of horizontal and/or vertical soil movement. But that section specifically applied to "[a]ll exterior mechanical connections," which the court interpreted, based on a plain reading and expert testimony, as connections exterior to the foundation or the building--and not to piping underneath the building.

On the other hand, t [...]

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