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$8.12-Million Settlement Reached in Texas Lawsuit

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A lawsuit filed two years ago by Zapata County Independent School District against Houston-based Satterfield & Pontikes Construction and several subcontractors has ended with an $8.12-million settlement paid to the district.

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The two elementary schools Satterfield & Pontikes built for Zapata County ISD, Zapata South Elementary School and Fidel & Andrea R. Villarreal Elementary School, opened in January 2006. Both were constructed from a $16-million bond package approved in 2003.

Six years later, in spring 2012, the school district filed a lawsuit against the design and construction team, alleging poor quality work on the two schools, as well as on covered play pavilions built at the Zapata North and Arturo L. Benavides elementary schools.

Other firms named in the suit with Satterfield & Pontikes included Alamo Controls Inc., Alamo Waterproofing Inc., Cover Painting Corp., Davis Contractors Ltd., Excel Applicators Inc., Midway Welding Inc., Twin City Glass, Romero Construction and E. Romero Construction LLC.

The lawsuit made 11 claims against the defendants, including: a failure to construct the projects in accordance with plans and specifications; failure to properly seal openings in plaster and stucco outside walls, allowing unconditioned air to enter the building and damage HVAC components of the building and case accumulation of infiltrates; substitution of materials and equipment with cheaper and lower quality materials; and a failure to construct the projects in a good and workmanlike manner.

The suit initially sought $16 million in damages from the defendants.

The trial began on January 13 and ended two weeks later, after a settlement was reached.

“The sole purpose of entering into the settlement agreement was to avoid the time, expense, uncertainty and inconvenience of continued dispute, discussion and the lawsuit,” said Juan J. Cruz of law firm J. Cruz & Associates LLC, who represented ZCISD, to ENR in a written statement. “There was no admission of liability, culpability or wrongdoing.”

However, “the entire design and construction team collectively settled through insurance, which is a lot different” than paying the settlement out of pocket, notes John Marshall, vice president at Satterfield & Pontikes.

Additionally, during the six years between the time the schools were completed and the lawsuit was filed, “we never had a single warranty call, to my knowledge,” Marshall says. “When this was first brought up, naturally the first thing that we would want to do is take a look at it and see if we could repair any issues, and instead the district decided to go a different route.”

Marshall adds, “Obviously, we’re disappointed that the matter went as far as it did, but we are happy that a settlement was reached. All throughout the course of the project and through the warranty period, we had a terrific relationship with the district, the owner, and we know we supplied a very good product—several good facilities.”

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