Connecticut Supreme Court Orders New Trial For Firing Original Developers Of Dunkin’ Donuts Park – Hartford Courant

Hartford — In the ongoing, years-long saga over the construction of Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the state Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ordered a new lawsuit regarding the City of Hartford’s firing of the original developers in 2016 for not completing the stadium in time.

The original developers – Centerplan Construction Co. and DoNo Hartford LLC – filed a $90 million lawsuit in July 2016 challenging the termination. In 2019, a Hartford Superior Court jury sided with the city, accusing Centerplan and DoNo of missing the deadline. The jury also awarded the city $335,000 in damages.

On appeal, Centerplan, through its attorney Louis Pepe of McElroy, Deutch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, and DoNo argued that the trial court in 2019 did not allow them to present evidence they could not. not be held responsible for “countless flaws” in the ballpark designs because the architect was under the control of the city. This, according to the developers, led to cost overruns, delays in the construction of the ballpark, and ultimately the developers’ layoffs.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-0 decision, ruled that who had legal control of the architect and design of the stadium from January to June 2016 – from when a term sheet was executed until when the city fired Centerplan and DoNo – was ambiguous and, therefore, must be decided by the jury.

“The complaint was that the trial court had erroneously determined – before the start of the trial – that the [original developers] were responsible for all errors and omissions by the architectural team before, during and after construction,” Pepe said in an interview. “We argued that just couldn’t be the case. … [T]The architect was hired by the city before contracts were made with Centerplan and had begun the design and was in fact well completed before the city awarded its contract with the architect to Centerplan.

The original developers also argued on appeal that, under the terms of the contract and the common law, they were entitled to notice of default and an opportunity to cure the default before termination could be implemented. Evidence supporting this argument was improperly withheld from the jury during the 2019 trial, Pepe said.

“In construction, termination is the functional equivalent of capital punishment,” Pepe said. “The law is very clear that before imposing this extreme remedy, you must strictly comply with your obligations as an owner which are conditions precedent to termination. We argued that the city had failed to do so. … It was a question for the jury and it was improperly removed from the jury. If we go back to this trial and this question comes up, it becomes a question for the jury to decide. »

With the Supreme Court ordering a new trial, the city could be held liable for tens of millions of dollars in damages to Centerplan and DoNo. Judge Thomas Moukawsher, following the 2019 verdict, lifted restrictions that would allow a new developer to continue construction of apartments, retail and entertainment space and parking lots.

New developer, Stamford-based RMS Cos., has paved the way on one of four parcels that make up North Crossing, formerly known as DoNo. The project is a mixed-use development which includes apartments, parking and a restaurant.

“When we took over the case, we informed the city that before entering into a new development agreement with a new developer, they should understand that we would challenge the termination of these development agreements,” said Pepe.

The city and the new developer essentially proceeded at their own risk, Pepe said.

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Mayor Luke Bronin said the decision was “disappointing” and the city “strongly” disagrees with it.

“Having said that, we believe the facts are clear and that a new trial will, once again, result in a decision in favor of Hartford,” he said. “If the city hadn’t fired Centerplan when we did, there would be no baseball in Hartford today, no development around the ballpark, and Hartford taxpayers would have been responsible for dozens millions of dollars wasted by Centerplan – with nothing to show for it.

Pepe, meanwhile, said he and his client were “delighted” with the Supreme Court’s opinion.

“The City of Hartford has grossly mistreated [Centerplan CEO Robert] Landino, his partners and his companies when he wrongfully terminated his construction contract for the Dunkin’ Donuts baseball stadium after it was substantially complete and did the same with his contracts with the development of the city-owned parcels neighbor before he could even start working on it. ,” he said. “Now the city will be held accountable for these wrongdoings and the prodigious pain and suffering they have caused. We look forward to the new trial that the Supreme Court has ordered.

The Supreme Court ruling is another chapter in an ongoing battle that began with an admittedly aggressive schedule that called for the minor league’s 6,100-seater park to be built in just 13 months, with the Yard Goats – the Double-A subsidiary of Colorado. Rockies – hosting their home opener in May 2016.

With construction delays, the Yard Goats played their first season on the road, with a new contractor brought in to complete construction. The project was completed in 2017.

Ken Gosselin contributed to this story.

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