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Connecticut Sues Prison Builders for $18 Million

On February 27, 2008, Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General for the State of Connecticut, announced that his office had sued 13 contractors and their insurers seeking more than $18 million in connection with the construction of 22 buildings at the York Correctional Institution – the state’s only prison for women.

The six-year project, from 1991 to 1997, cost more than $50 million. However, the prison buildings were barely completed before some began to fall apart. Water damage from leaks, crumbling masonry and cracks in at least 19 of the buildings caused state officials to investigate the quality of the work performed by the various contractors.

According to the Attorney General’s office, the companies “knew or should have known the work was defective.” Repairs were estimated to cost $18 million – the amount requested in the suit, which was filed on behalf of the Commissioners for the Dept. of Corrections (DOC) and Dept. of Public Works (DPW).

“This work was seriously substandard – ceilings and walls leaking water and cracked facades losing stone,” AG Blumenthal stated. “Slipshod design and construction doomed these buildings to deteriorate. These contractors shortchanged taxpayers and squandered scarce criminal justice resources.”

Forensic investigators “determined that the correctional facility has numerous defects,” including improper design of exterior walls, flashing, “weeps” that direct water away from the foundation, control joints mortar composition, and joint reinforcement.

The companies named in the lawsuit included Bacon Construction Co., Inc., Tishman Construction Corporation of New England, HDR Architecture P.C., Maguire Group, Inc., Stratton Co., Inc., J.S. Nasin Co, Independent Material Testing Laboratories, Inc., Testing Labs, Inc. DBA Testwell Craig Laboratories of CT, Inc., Naek Construction Co, Inc., B.W. Dexter II, Inc., Travelers Insurance, American Insurance Co. and Employers Insurance of Wausau.

The suit charged each of the companies with breach of contract, negligence, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty, and included claims for $6.5 million in performance bonds against the insurers.

Prior to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, however, one of the companies, Bacon Construction, had filed a claim and arbitration demand against the state due to the state’s failure to pay the company for work performed on the prison construction project. The claim went to arbitration, and on January 25, 2008 the arbitrator awarded Bacon Construction $434,974.34. The company then filed an application in Superior Court to affirm the arbitration award against the state, which the state opposed.

The court upheld the arbitration award in an April 22, 2008 ruling despite the state’s claims of sovereign immunity and lack of jurisdiction, noting, “It is ironic that DPW believed the arbitrator had the authority to decide the issue of jurisdiction, but, now, after receiving an award with which it disagrees, urges the court to overturn the arbitrator’s decision that there is jurisdiction.”

The state appealed, and the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling on February 9, 2010, holding that by agreeing the arbitrator would be the final authority, the state had waived its right to judicial review of its post-arbitration claims. See: Bacon Const. Co., Inc. v. Department of Public Works, 294 Conn. 695, 987 A.2d 348 (Conn. 2010).

Following remand, on April 14, 2010 the Superior Court ordered interest of $55,594.23 to be added to Bacon Construction’s original arbitration award, for a total of $490,568.57, which was “to be paid immediately” by the state. See: Bacon Const. Co., Inc. v. Department of Public Works, 2010 WL 2106166 (Conn.Super. 2010).

The Attorney General worked out an agreement with Bacon in November 2010 in which the arbitration award was placed in escrow pending the resolution of the state’s suit against Bacon and the other construction companies and their insurers. See: State of Connecticut v. Bacon Construction Co., Inc., Hartford Superior Court (CT), Docket No. CV-08-5014967-S.

Meanwhile, construction commenced at the York Correctional Institution in mid-2009 to replace stone facades, reinstall windows and repair roofs at the 22 buildings that were the subject of the state’s lawsuit. The reconstruction project is expected to take three years and conclude in 2012.

Sources: Associated Press, Conn. Attorney General press release,

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Related legal cases

Bacon Const. Co., Inc. v. Department of Public Works

Bacon Const. Co., Inc. v. Department of Public Works

State of Connecticut v. Bacon Construction Co., Inc.