Parties Settle Lawsuit Over Miller Park Roof
The Miller Park stadium district and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America reached a multimillion-dollar agreement on Jan. 7 to settle a three-year court battle over costly repairs to the ballpark’s retractable roof.
With the settlement, the two parties avoided a lengthy jury trial that was scheduled to start Jan 10.
The two sides had traded accusations ever since the Milwaukee Brewers opened the stadium in 2001 and the problems started with extensive leakage every time it rained.
The stadium district sued Mitsubishi and HCH, the general contractor in charge of stadium construction, in January 2002, alleging mismanagement and negligence in the roof’s construction. The district’s damage claim eventually grew from $5 million to nearly $49 million.
A month later, Mitsubishi filed a counterclaim arguing the district owed it money for the extra time and materials needed to complete the roof. Mitsubishi sought as much as $87 million in damages, but Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Kitty Brennan cut that damage claim to about $37 million.
The agreement, approved by the judge, calls for the stadium district to receive nearly $33 million, $4 million of which would come from Mitsubishi to cover repairs for the defects in the roof, according to settlement documents released by the district.
Mitsubishi would receive $22 million, $6 million of which would come from the district to settle Mitsubishi’s claim of cost overruns.
The settlement also releases Mitsubishi of its warranty for the retractable part of the roof, district officials said.
The district already had set aside enough money to settle Mitsubishi’s claim and will need no additional tax money, board chairman Jay Williams said.
“It’s a great deal for the taxpayers, and our project cost remains under the budget of $394 million,” he said.
Residents in five southeastern Wisconsin counties are paying a 0.1 percent sales tax until 2014 for the stadium. Officials said that tax schedule remains on track.
The stadium’s roof has had problems since the ballpark opened in 2001, including loud noises, leaks and faulty mechanical systems. Mitsubishi had signed a contract to build the roof for $46 million.
Dean Laing, an attorney for Mitsubishi, said Brennan called the agreement a “win-win” for both parties. Both the district and Mitsubishi each will get about 60 percent of their claims, he said.
“Both sides compromised, and both sides got about the same deal,” Laing said.
Kano Saito, vice president of Mitsubishi’s Milwaukee office, said he was pleased the two sides finally reached an agreement in the case. He said although Mitsubishi has not been involved in any more stadium projects since Miller Park, the lawsuits haven’t made it wary of future work.
Most of the money in the settlement would come from Travelers Indemnity of Illinois, a large insurer responsible for coverage of both main parties in the case, according to the settlement documents.
The three-year legal battle cost the stadium district $14 million in legal fees, all of it covered by insurance, said Mike Duckett, the stadium district’s executive director.
Had the suit gone to trial, it could have been years before the stadium district got any money for the repairs of the roof, Williams said.
“If we went into litigation, we don’t know when we were going to get any cash,” he said.
The settlement documents spell out where the money will go:
•The stadium district will receive $28.95 million from Travelers Indemnity, Indemnity Insurance Co. of North America and Royal Insurance Co.
•Mitsubishi will receive $15.75 million from Travelers, Indemnity and Royal.
•The stadium district will pay Mitsubishi $6 million to settle cost overruns.
•Mitsubishi will pay the district $4 million.
•Ove Arup & Partners California Limited, the structural engineer of record for the Miller Park project, will pay Mitsubishi $250,000.