Rose & deJong, S.C. won a successful at jury verdict for client Spancrete Industries, Inc. on September 28, 2017, in an important case involving the City of Milwaukee.
In late 1999 through 2001, Spancrete was retained by the general contractor to provide precast concrete components for the new Third District Milwaukee Police Station and Parking Structure Project. Towards the end of the project, but prior to the City’s occupancy of the parking structure, there were a couple cosmetic issues that Spancrete resolved, and a reinforcement issue, which Spancrete self-identified to the general contractor and City and resolved by November 2001.
Spancrete provided, at Spancrete’s cost, the City with a traffic membrane on the top level of the parking because if properly maintained, would protect the precast concrete from moisture intrusion. Spancrete also provided the City with a ten year conditional warranty. The warranty was subject to specific, written conditions. The conditions required the City to perform regular maintenance pursuant to a maintenance manual Spancrete provided, and required the City would maintain records of the maintenance performed.
Spancrete performed inspections at the parking structure. By 2003, the inspector noted that the City was not maintaining the top level of the parking structure. This same observation was made in following years. In 2009, the maintenance not having been done and no records kept, the City then demanded Spancrete perform repairs to a section of the top level of the parking structure that was exhibiting signs of deterioration. Spancrete advised the City that the deterioration was due to the City’s failure to properly maintain the parking structure, so Spancrete was not responsible for the deterioration observed. In fall 2011, it was discovered that some of the precast double tees that deteriorated, did not have the air content specified in the 1999 contract. However, repairs required at the time were relatively minimal; estimating at approximately $35,000.
On February 5, 2014, the City filed suit seeking over 3 Million in damages. Due to the statute of limitations, the City’s only viable claim is breach of warranty. But, Spancrete argued the warranty had conditions, which required the City to maintain the parking structure and maintain maintenance records, which the City failed to do. Extensive discovery was exchanged, and numerous depositions were taken.In the meantime, deterioration to the top deck of parking structure continued, and as a result, the top level parking structure was not usable until the City made expensive repairs in 2016.
Spancrete’s experts provided evidence that regardless of whether the air content met the 1999 contract specifications, if the City would have properly maintained the traffic membrane on the top level of the parking structure, the concrete would not have deteriorated. This is evidenced by the fact that other there are four levels to the parking structure, all four levels of the structure has a membrane, but only the top level shows signs of deterioration.
On September 18, 2017, a jury trial commenced before the Honorable Mary Triggiano. After a grueling nine days of trial, the jury found that the City failed to maintain the parking structure, so the City received zero dollars in damages. As the prevailing party, Spancrete would have been entitled to statutory costs, while Spancrete was confident the jury verdict would be upheld, Spancrete agreed to waive statutory costs in exchange for the City not appealing so this case would finally end. This jury verdict was a significant victory for Spancrete.