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February 3, 2005

Counter Claim Filed in Dispute Over The Pete

The architectural firm that designed the Petersen Events Center has filed a counter claim to a civil suit filed by Pitt in December. (See Jan. 6 University Times.)

Pitt’s suit against the joint architectural firm Apostolou Associates of Mt. Washington/Rosser International of Atlanta alleged breach of contract due to “actions, errors and omissions during the design and construction” of The Pete, as well as “delays, disruptions, interferences and additional costs” caused by the architects.

In the counter claim, filed Jan. 24 in Common Pleas court, the architects allege they were asked to reduce costs in the project without eliminating design elements and had to perform significant extra work to speed up the construction for which they were not compensated.

They 145-page counter claim also alleges that the state’s Department of General Services (DGS), which oversaw construction of the 440,000 sq. ft. multipurpose facility, systematically rejected the architects’ proposals to save money.

“Any damages asserted by the plaintiff (Pitt) in this matter are the result of causes for which these defendants are not liable and are instead the fault of the DGS, the University of Pittsburgh and their contractors and other representatives,” the counter claim asserts.

“Specifically, after contracting with Apostolou/Rosser, DGS changed the location of the facility and accelerated the design and construction schedule,” which caused the cost of the project to soar, the counter claim states.

Furthermore, according to the counter claim, “Apostolou performed substantial professional design services above and beyond those required of it in its contract with the DGS as a result of demands by the University of Pittsburgh and breaches of contract by the DGS.”

Apostolou/Rosser asserts that in June 1999 the firm submitted a construction estimate of $68.5 million but was directed by the DGS to meet the earlier stated budget of $55 million despite significant additions to the project. That, coupled with the accelerated construction schedule, also ordered by the DGS, “had a significant and expensive impact” on the firm, the counter claim alleges.

This so-called “fast-tracking” of the project risks errors and cost overruns, the counter claim asserts, because building contractors must rely on incomplete designs.

The counter claim seeks unspecified punitive damages and legal fees. Robert J. Ray, the attorney representing Apostolou/Rosser, did not return a phone call request for comment; Charles Gibbons, who represents Pitt in the suit, was unavailable for comment as the University Times went to press.

In a separate civil suit filed in December, Pitt and the DGS as co-plaintiffs allege that the steel and aluminum roof work on the Petersen Events Center done by G&W Roofing and Construction of Eighty Four, Pa., Morin Corp. of Bristol, Ct., and Havens Steel Co. of Kansas City, Mo., is defective.

To date, those firms have taken no legal action in response to the suit, according to Prothonotary civil docket records.

-Peter Hart

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