The multimillion-dollar trial between feuding BC Place Stadium renovation contractors has already been extended to 100 days instead of 85, amid rows between the various parties over documentation and co-operation.
Justice Gregory Bowden agreed to the extension request on January 11 from Stuart Hankinson, lawyer for Canam Group, at a case management hearing in B.C. Supreme Court. The judge-only trial is scheduled to begin October 21, meaning the marathon trial would stretch into mid-March 2014.
Quebec-based steel contractor Canam hired France-headquartered Freyssinet to install the cables that support the stadium’s new retractable roof. In October 2011, Freyssinet sued Canam over almost $6.5 million allegedly owing. Canam responded with a $26.15 million countersuit, blaming Freyssinet for cost overruns on the original $4.5 million job quote. General contractor PCL Constructors Westcoast and BC Pavilion Corp., which operates the taxpayer-owned stadium, were also named as defendants by Freyssinet.
Bowden ordered a copy of Freyssinet’s internal 176-page “lessons learned” report be translated from French to English and given to Hankinson, who complained that Freyssinet had not been fully cooperative during the ongoing examination for discovery stage.
“Production of this document is extremely important at this juncture,” Hankinson told the court. “It’s relevant, it’s material.”
Freyssinet lawyers objected to providing an unredacted copy. They originally wanted it to be translated in-house by Boris Cousin, the site engineer who wrote the report. Hankinson objected for fear that Cousin would also edit potentially damaging information from the report.
Freyssinet lawyer Douglas Lahay downplayed the report’s significance. “It’s not quite the smoking gun he believes it is.”
Lahay said the company wanted names of suppliers and payments censored. “We don’t want to be telling everybody where we go to get these materials and what the costs are,” Lahay said.
“I’m sensitive to trade secrets,” Hankinson said. “Our clients are not competitors.”
Freyssinet withheld attachments to 3,000 emails, but Bowden ordered the attachments to be provided to Canam. Hankinson complained that Andre Coudret, who was CEO of Freyssinet USA during the renovation, objected to answering 11 of 19 written questions, claiming it “made a bit of a mockery of this process.”
“We’re not making very good progress, we’re going to be back in front of this court regularly between now and October,” Hankinson told the court.
Hankinson said one of the only facts gleaned from the responses was that bridge specialist Freyssinet had limited experience building cable-stay roof systems on stadiums.
“They had one stadium they participated in that was vaguely resembling BC Place,” Hankinson said, referring to a 15,000-seat hockey arena in Minsk, Belarus.
Freyssinet also provided stay cables, expansion joints and pot bearings to the new Port Mann toll bridge. On December 19, the bridge was closed when so-called “ice bombs” fell from bridge cables and damaged vehicles. The plaza around BC Place was closed the same day after chunks of ice fell from the stadium’s roof cables.
The case management hearing continues January 21. It is expected the court will be told whether an insurance company will pay for the estimated $15 million damage to BC Place’s roof from grease that leaked from the Geobrugg-supplied cables.
“This was a troubled project, m’lord,” Hankinson told the court.
Coincidentally, NDP critic Spencer Chandra Herbert complained in writing January 11 to the Office of the Auditor General, seeking a value for money audit of the renovation project.
Attached to the complaint is a confidential January 22, 2008, letter by PavCo chair David Podmore informing city manager Judy Rogers that the renovation and new roof would cost $100 million. Last August, the government said the final bill was $514 million, yet it has not disclosed how much it paid Telus for the supply of goods and services that were originally part of the February 2012-cancelled naming rights deal.
“To date, the Liberal government has never made the business case for the project public, leaving British Columbians to ask if this was a good use of scarce public dollars, or if there were other ways to improve B.C. Place at a lower cost,” wrote Chandra Herbert. “I believe that determining how the cost of this project escalated so quickly, and whether the Liberal government acted with appropriate fiscal responsibility, is crucial to the public interest.”
© Copyright 2013