The Cabrillo Unified School District has filed suit against Thompson Builders, the construction company that built the Cunha C classroom building that has been closed for the past year due to mold and water intrusion.
On March 3, the district’s law firm Dannis Woliver Kelley filed a complaint in San Mateo County Superior Court alleging “breach of contract and professional negligence” on the part of the construction company. The complaint seeks compensatory and consequential damages, the cost of the suit itself, and “such other and further relief as the court may deem just and proper.”
In 2007, Thompson Builders, then known as West Bay Builders, contracted with CUSD to build the C classroom building and library at Cunha Intermediate School for an original base bid of $13.3 million. Shortly after the classrooms’ completion, teachers began reporting leaks in the new building, and in March 2016 the district closed the building due to significant water intrusion and mold problems. In December, the district authorized Blach Construction to begin overhauling the damaged building, at a cost not to exceed $14 million.
The complaint alleges that West Bay breached its contract with the district by performing flawed work on the two buildings. Destructive testing “revealed improperly performed, non-compliant or otherwise defective work, and resulting in widespread water intrusion and damage (mold, dry rot, etc.) in areas including but not limited to the roofs, windows, and building envelopes for building C and the library,” the complaint reads.
The complaint also alleges negligence on the part of West Bay, claiming the builders failed “to exercise reasonable care” through negligent workmanship and improper installation of the roof, window, and building envelope for building C and the library.
As a result of the contractual breaches and negligence, the district alleges it has suffered and will continue to suffer “damage, loss, cost and expense.” Those include the cost of repairs, damage to adjacent areas, and impairments to the district’s educational services. The cost of the damages is to be established at trial, the complaint says, but they are “in excess of $12 million.” The district demands a jury trial, the complaint says.
The suit was filed after negotiations with Thompson Builders broke down, according to Cabrillo Unified School District Superintendent Jane Yuster, who joined the district in 2015. No hearing date has been set for the suit, she said.
Thompson Builders disagrees with the characterization of its work described in the complaint. “We built the project in accordance with plans and specifications provided by Cabrillo Unified School District,” wrote Paul Thompson, president of Thompson Builders, in an email to the Review.
“The district employed a full-time inspector to ensure that the work was performed in compliance with the district-provided plans and specifications,” he wrote. He noted that, during the course of construction, all parties, including the district, the district’s architect and inspector, were satisfied that the work complied with the district’s plans and specifications.
“Now, 10 years later, the district thinks we did something wrong but cannot be specific about what, if anything, was done improperly. It is important to note that we were not responsible for maintaining the buildings during the past 10 years,” the email said. “One would think that during the course of routine maintenance any construction defects would have been discovered during the first few years.”
Some Cabrillo teachers have called for an investigation into the district’s handling of the leak reports. Yuster said she is sympathetic to the concerns of district staff and teachers, while trying to balance them with the court case.
“I can understand how frustrating it can be, but we have to protect the district’s rights,” she said. “I want nothing to jeopardize our efforts to recover the money to rebuild this school.”