It appears that the parties involved in the McGuire Apartments construction dispute have finally reached terms on a settlement. The settlement will reportedly absolve all parties of potential liability (subject to meeting financial terms that must be met) and allow the owner to finally make a well-advised decision on whether to try a retrofit or tear the building down.
As you may have learned from my earlier posts, the McGuire has been vacant for some time due to severe safety hazards. Post-tension cables on the building were left unsealed and improperly secured at the foundation, leading many to have concern over whether the building could withstand earthquake force.
The parties originally filed a lawsuit in King County, Washington, but were sent to mediation. For the past several months they have been going back and forth over whether or not the building could be remediated or whether it needed to be torn down and rebuilt. The finger pointing started with the owner, Carpenters Union LLC, blaming the contractor for failing to meet code requirements. The contractor investigated and pointed the finger at a 3rd party inspecting engineer who had failed to notify the contractor that it had not met code, and approved inspection.
The City of Seattle also plays a role in this dispute, as it was the body who approved final compliance with the building code. After hairs were raised by the McGuire’s inherent problems, the City of Seattle launched an inspection of many buildings that were built around the same time, in order to determine whether others have had similar issues. The actual goal was to discover whether anyone has permitted a successful “fix” that might save the McGuire. It is not known whether the City discovered anything.
All we know now it that the parties have settled. Local Seattle news source, KIRO 7, recently published a short report on the settlement:
A statement to KIRO 7 from the Kennedy Associates, who represent the McGuire owners, said, “Carpenter’s Tower LLC, the owner of the McGuire Apartment Building, McCarthy Building Companies Inc., and various other subcontractors have resolved all outstanding legal issues between the parties related to the 25-story tower.”
“We are pleased to have reached a mutually agreeable settlement on all issues,” said Susan Garritano, spokesperson for McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., the firm that built the high-rise.
Unfortunately, that is it. The details of the settlement are not being released and it appears that we may never know who ultimately took responsibility, or whether the insurers simply shared it amongst themselves. The owners are now free to work with the City to determine the best way to resolve the building’s flaws – and tearing it down might be that resolution.
The secret resolution is one of the major negatives (or positives depending on where you sit) about private dispute resolution for us in the legal audience. While we want to know how decision-makers resolve disputes, a public fight may have made it much more difficult to achieve settlement. With a major public safety hazard standing above our streets, perhaps it was for the best.