Meyers Nave Achieves $8.3 Million Verdict for City of Larkspur Against National Engineering Firm
Oakland, CA – On September 18th in Marin County Superior Court, an $8.3 million jury verdict was awarded in favor of the City of Larkspur, CA and against national engineering firm Jacobs Engineering Group with respect to fraudulently concealing defective design work on a bridge retrofit program.
Jacobs Engineering Group (“Jacobs”) a publicly traded company (NYSE:JEC), based in Pasadena, CA, has annual revenues exceeding $10 billion. In 1994, they were hired to widen the Bon Air Bridge in Larkspur. In 2000, a recreational boater noticed portions of the bridge crumbling and alerted City officials. The City investigated the matter, ultimately uncovering design defects. Jacobs then proceeded to conceal and deny any issues with the work performed for over 5 years.
The Bon Air Bridge is a key bike/pedestrian/vehicular connector for the City of Larkspur carrying an estimated 20,000 cars a day and providing north/south access between central Larkspur, and Greenbrae, Highway 101 and Marin General Hospital.
The City now must replace the bridge partially due to the constructions defects. Design and environmental review for the bridge is currently underway, and construction is scheduled for 2011.
Larkspur Public Works Director Hamid Shamsapour’s efforts to seek Jacob’s help to identify and resolve the problems with the bridge were stonewalled, forcing the Larkspur City Council to make the difficult decision to file suit against Jacobs. Working with current and former City staff, Larkspur City Attorney Sky Woodruff and fellow attorney Geoff Spellberg were able to secure enough evidence that the matter passed two summary judgments and ultimately produced a highly favorable jury verdict.
The City of Larkspur has contracted with Meyers Nave, a public entity law firm based in Northern California, for city attorney services for several years.
In the discovery process, the City’s legal team of Meyers Nave was able to determine that Jacobs had been aware of the design issues involving the bridge and had failed to disclose these issues to the City Council or City Staff despite their inquiries.
“The City is both delighted and relieved with the verdict and is looking forward to replacing the bridge within the next three years”, stated City Manager Jean Bonander. “The whole situation felt very much like ‘David and Goliath’ – a small city like Larkspur taking on a large multi-national firm like Jacobs to protect public safety and to right a wrong. We owe many thanks to our dedicated employees and Meyers Nave legal team in taking this journey to such a productive conclusion.”
“This was a complex case that unfortunately could not be resolved short of litigation and a jury trial. In the end, we were very pleased that the jury agreed that the City’s and the taxpayers’ interests were not served by the poor quality of work performed by this contractor. This is a result that the public can be proud of,” said Jayne Williams, Managing Principal of Meyers Nave.
Jacobs Engineering Group is the successor in interest to Sverdrup engineering company who prepared and implemented the widening design for the Bon Air Bridge. Significantly, Sverdrup was involved in the design of the collapsed I-35 Bridge in Minnesota. Sverdrup’s involvement in the Minnesota bridge design was not presented to the Marin County jury pursuant to a trial court ruling.