Stark & Stark recently handled a construction litigation case for a Condominium Association which owned 5 large buildings. The Association was concerned about a large number of upper -floor balconies which were noticeably bowing in the middle. We brought in an experienced structural engineer who conducted an extensive examination of the balconies.
Our discovery in the case and our expert’s investigation showed that the balconies were concrete filigree slabs beneath a cast- in- place concrete topping slab. That means that the filigree slabs were fabricated off-site and shipped to the condominium. They were lowered into place by a crane, supported by heavy scaffolding and attached to the concrete walls with rebar and steel framing. Once they were lowered into place, the topping slab of concrete was poured over the entire filigree slab. (The filigree slab itself had been fabricated off-site in a steel frame that had a 4 inch lip to accommodate the poured topping slab added at the site).
In deposition testimony, the contractor who had installed the filigree slabs and poured the topping slab admitted that he had “cracked the scaffolding” for 2 hours only 2 days after the topping slab was poured. In other words, he had released the scaffolding for 2 hours and let the balconies settle before re-installing half of the scaffolding. Although the contractor testified that he was told to do this by his consulting engineer, the contractor never joined the consulting engineer as a party. The American Concrete Institute required that concrete cure for 28 days before the scaffolding was released. As a result of the wrongful release of the scaffolding, the balconies suffered structural failure because some of the rebar separated from the framing of the buildings. That caused the center of the balconies to “droop.” There was also consequential damage because the balconies were attached to buildings clad with exterior insulation and finish system. As the balconies pulled away from the exterior walls, they caused compression folds and cracks in the EIFS which allowed water to penetrate into the sheathing and framing.
The Association sued the general contractor and the concrete subcontractor for negligence, breach of contract and violation of the NJ Consumer Fraud Act. The Association settled the claim in a confidential settlement in the high six-figures.