Owner Wins Indemnity Trial Against Contractor in Faulty Construction Case
It took four years and a Superior Court trial, but a local housing authority was recently vindicated when it proved that a contractor was legally responsible for a tragic 2009 fire in Bridgeport. In the trial of Black v. City of Bridgeport, state Superior Court Judge Theodore Tyma found that an electrical subcontractor’s failure to follow construction plans and specifications, as well as the building code, caused the fatal fire. In the weeks following the fire, investigators hired by the housing authority’s attorneys, Kenny, O’Keefe & Usseglio, discovered that decades earlier, during a major renovation of certain housing units, an electrical subcontractor had failed to follow the building code with respect to the installation of smoke detectors. The housing authority sued the contractor for indemnification for monies paid the family of the victims of the fire.
The housing authority had to fend off a statute of limitations defense by the contractor, but was ultimately successful. During the trial of the indemnity action, housing authority fire and code experts testified that they tore down housing unit walls after the fire, and were shocked to learn that the electrical subcontractor had failed to interconnect the smoke detectors. The housing authority’s trial attorney, Frank Usseglio, argued to the trier of fact that the contractor’s deception in failing to comply with the building code, as well as the architect’s plans and specifications, was covered up behind apartment walls for 20 years. The court agreed, ruling in December 2013 that the contractor was liable to the owner for complete indemnification.
“It was a tragic, tragic situation and the judge’s decision on who was responsible stands on its own,” said a housing authority representative.