BC Place roof costs lawsuit gets sticky over grease stains

A BC Supreme Court filing by a lawyer for Canam Group indicates BC Place stadium's grease-stained roof has further complicated the multimillion-dollar cost overruns lawsuit.

A BC Supreme Court filing by a lawyer for Canam Group indicates BC Place stadium's grease-stained roof has further complicated the multimillion-dollar cost overruns lawsuit.

Boucherville, Quebec-based Canam (TSX:CAM) is claiming from cable installer Freyssinet Canada of Mississauga, Ontario, all costs claimed by general contractor PCL Constructors Westcoast of Richmond for the grease that leaked from cables supplied by Switzerland's Geobrugg AG.

The total cost of repairing the stained fabric roof is unknown, but is estimated at $15 million, according to the December 17 case-planning proposal by Stuart Hankinson of law firm Shapiro Hankinson Knutson.

"PCL claims that these cables have stained the fabric roof and further that the grease and cleaning efforts by Freyssinet to remove the grease from the fabric roof have damaged the fabric, requiring repair and in some instances replacement of the fabric roof," said Hankinson's filing. "Canam claims it has incurred and will continue to incur costs for investigating the grease problem and to compensate PCL for the fabric repair work."

PCL has not sued Canam, but the document said PCL is withholding $5 million from Canam for cable grease deficiencies and has invoiced Canam $6 million for fabric repairs. Hankinson indicated insurance may not cover the repairs.

Documents released by PavCo via Freedom of Information indicate PCL knew the cables were leaking grease as early as November 2010.

"The insurers who have underwritten the project's wrap up and course of construction policies are currently investigating the claim and determining whether they will provide coverage," said Hankinson's filing.

Plaintiff Freyssinet claimed $6,466,892 in its October 31 breach of contract lawsuit against Canam, which responded with a $26,154,364 countersuit on November 18.

The next hearing is Thursday, January 10, when Canam will apply to add Freyssinet's France-based parent company as a defendant and Freyssinet will apply to add Geobrugg to the action. David Miachika of Borden Ladner Gervais has been retained as Geobrugg's lawyer.

Hankinson is assisted by Mark Braidwood, while Glen Boswall, Amy Mortimore and Doug Lahay of Clark Wilson are representing Freyssinet. Murray Clemens of Nathanson Schechter and Thompson represents defendant BC Pavilion Corp. and Michael Demers of Jenkins Marzban Logan represents defendant PCL.

A judge-only trial estimated to last 85 days is scheduled to begin October 21 this year, but Canam wants to increase the length of the trial.

Canam has demanded thousands of pages of internal Freyssinet emails and reports. Freyssinet representatives Cyril Rouzies, Andre Coudret, Boris Cousin and Martin Duroyon underwent examination for discovery in October and November. Canam's Michel Lafrance, Martin Boisclair and Steeve Toupin gave their sworn dispositions in November and December.

Hankinson's filing said Canam and Freyssinet agreed April 22, 2009, to jointly bid for the job. "Relying on Freyssinet's advice Canam carried the cost of $4,543,000.00 to install the cables in its bid to and subsequent contract with PCL."

PCL agreed to pay Canam $122,864,581 for the installation of steel and cables/castings. Canam and Freyssinet failed to come to terms on the subcontract agreement, but began work in November 2009. Their August 23, 2010, contract was backdated to November 20, 2009.

Coincidentally, the fifth anniversary of the rip and collapse of BC Place's original inflated fabric roof is January 5. Temperatures fluctuated around the freezing mark as snow piled up on the roof on the first Friday morning of 2007. Snow alarms were ignored and a sudden spike in air pressure caused an avalanche on the west side of the roof where the heavy, wet debris cut a hole in the fabric.

The incident spurred PavCo to study replacing the roof before the 2010 Winter Olympics, but the Crown corporation eventually deemed it too risky and delayed the job until after the Games.

The original January 2009-announced budget of $365 million was increased to $563 million before the end of 2009. Last August, PavCo claimed the final cost was $514 million, but it has yet to disclose how much was paid to Telus for supplying and installing telecommunications and technology equipment. The government cancelled the $35 million to $40 million, 20-year naming rights sponsorship agreement with Telus last February.

The regional telecom giant was directly awarded a 10-year, $1 billion government-wide contract in June 2011, sparking complaints from competitors Bell, Rogers and Shaw, who had bid during a two-year tender for various government contracts.