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City pays $100K to settle lawsuit

Published 10:15pm Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The city recently paid $108,000 to settle a lawsuit from a well contractor that claimed the city refused to pay it for work it had performed.

A.C. Schultes of Maryland filed the lawsuit in February 2011, but the city was not served with the suit until January 2012. It claimed the city had failed to pay about $215,400, after the city terminated the company’s contract, for work the company had already performed.

“Said denial by Suffolk was wrongful, inequitable and otherwise improper,” the lawsuit alleged.

In the city’s response, it accused the company of mishandling a well mitigation project at 9401 Rivershore Drive, the home of Stephen and Jacqueline Gaskins.

In order to get a permit for its new well off Moores Point Road, the city was required to lower pumps on private wells that could have run dry after the groundwater level in the area lowered.

The company was required to raise the pump and drop pipe in the Gaskinses’ well, which supplied the home with drinking water and fed into the hot water heater and heat pump. On Dec. 1, 2009, the company “mishandled raising the pump and drop pipe, and the pump dropped to the bottom of the Gaskinses’ well,” according to the city’s response to the lawsuit.

It was the third time the company had dropped a pump while performing work on the city contract, according to the city’s response.

The company installed a temporary pump but failed to detect sand in the water and take steps to ameliorate the situation, according to the city’s response. The sand damaged the heat pump and deprived the family of heat to the home.

On each of the next two days, the company tried to retrieve the pump but was unsuccessful, according to the city’s response. On Dec. 4, the residents called their own contractor, which determined the well was irreparably damaged. A new well was dug and a new heat pump installed at a cost of $86,439.11.

The city paid the cost of the work to the Gaskinses’ contractor.

A.C. Schultes admitted the pump fell, but denied it mishandled the process and that the fallen pump caused the damage. It also admitted there was sand in the water but said it “was not given the opportunity” to alleviate the situation.

The city told Schultes to stop working at the home, according to the contractor’s response. The city notified A.C. Schultes it was terminating the contract effective March 15, 2010.

After Schultes filed its original lawsuit, the city responded that any award should be reduced by the $86,439.11 it paid to the other contractor. Schultes claimed the city was not legally obligated to pay the amount and that the residents had signed a limitation of remedy form.

The case had been set for a jury trial on Sept. 26. However, the parties mediated on July 30 and determined the city would pay $108,000 and keep the termination of the contract listed as “for convenience” with “no adverse inference” against the contractor.

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