B.C. Place roof tiff leads to lawsuit

Canam blamed Freyssinet for a $25 million cost overrun

A French company hired to engineer and supply the cables for B.C. Place Stadium's new roof is suing the Quebec-based steel contractor for almost $6.5 million.

Freyssinet filed a lawsuit in British Columbia Supreme Court Oct. 31, charging Canam Group with breach of contract, breach of statutory trust and equitable fraud.

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Crown-owned B.C. Pavilion Corporation and prime contractor PCL Constructors Westcoast were also named as defendants.

Freyssinet had a $30,124,377 subcontract from Canam's Structal Heavy Steel division and claims it continued working on the project despite Canam stopping payment.

Canam blamed Freyssinet for a $25 million cost overrun reported last April to Canam shareholders, but the Freyssinet claim said "Canam intentionally and wrongfully made the demand to recover alleged damages for financial losses arising from the completed work. This was a wrongful, tortious act constituting equitable fraud."

PavCo awarded PCL and Canam a $122,864,581 contract Nov. 18, 2009, according to the claim. Canam then hired Freyssinet but they were unable to agree on all terms. Freyssinet commenced work in July 2010 and on Aug. 23, 2010, Canam and Freyssinet signed a subcontract, backdated to Nov. 20, 2009. Despite the subcontract, the two companies did not agree on the erection work budget, according to the Freyssinet claim.

The statement of claim said Canam announced in November 2010 that it would "follow an alternate method of erection of the cable," without consulting Freyssinet.

Freyssinet claims Canam failed to keep work on schedule, directed labour and equipment without Freyssinet's knowledge or consent, interfered with Freyssinet supervisors and "permitted rates from Montacier International, a company related to Canam, for labour for erection of the cable which were higher than agreed upon."

The claim said that as of Oct. 19, certificates of completion had not been issued for the head contract at B.C. Place, despite the stadium's Sept. 30 reopening.

Freyssinet filed a lien with the Land Titles Office on Oct. 19. Canam told court on Oct. 31 that it had deposited a $6,466,892 bond with the registrar.

Cable installation delays postponed the application of the new fabric roof from February to June. Crews battled the weather in late September and October to apply seals to stop roof leaks.

Problems were apparent last fall during two incidents. A crane's pendant bar got hung up on a temporary support cable between one of the 130 ton roof support masts and the centre node on Sept. 27, 2010. One of the massive cable nets crashed to the ground during installation on Dec. 3, 2010, briefly halting work.

B.C. Place is the only stadium in the world where an air-supported roof has been replaced with a retractable roof supported by a network of cables and steel masts erected to buttress the structure. The taxpayer-funded project was budgeted at $563 million.

Canam spokesman Francois Begin and PavCo spokesman Trevor Pancoust both declined to comment on Freyssinet's untested claims.

"Was there something done, direction given from the provincial level, whether it's the minister of PavCo, which may have led to this result?" said NDP critic and Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert. "Are taxpayers going to be on the hook for any of this, or is this just an internal dispute?"

2010goldrush@gmail.com

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