Jefferson Parish sues contractors over leaky crime lab _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office crime lab at 1233 Westbank Expressway started having substantial leakage after Hurricane Isaac, and the contractors have been sued by the parish for deterioration the parish says began after the $16.8 million crime lab was set up in Harvey in the fall of 2010.

It was touted as a state-of-the-art facility when it was unveiled in late 2010. But the $16.8 million crime lab built in Harvey for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office began deteriorating right away and has suffered numerous water leaks, according to a lawsuit the parish filed Wednesday against several of its contractors on the project.

The parish says it has lost both time and money cleaning up wet carpeting, floors and window sills. The building has rusted and deteriorated because of unseen leakage trapped inside walls.

And, perhaps most seriously, the resulting damage could end up jeopardizing criminal cases because of “compromised evidence,” the lawsuit claims.

It seeks damages from the architect and builder who worked on the project.

The architectural design firm Sizeler Thompson Brown declared the crime lab at 1233 West Bank Expressway substantially complete on Sept. 23, 2010. The building experienced minor leaks after that, but “substantial leakage” set in during Hurricane Isaac in August 2012, the lawsuit says.

Both the building’s contractor — Baton Rouge-based MAPP — and the manufacturer of the exterior walls, Centria, subsequently conducted tests. In January 2013, Centria, which is not a party to the lawsuit, attributed the leaks to “poor workmanship,” the lawsuit says.

“If you stand back and look at this building from the ground in general, it looks like a very attractive building, but if you get up close, there are issues that should have been addressed when it was being built,” Centria’s Bruce Jones wrote in a memo attached to the lawsuit. “What I saw shows that the installers let the layout get out of control on some elevations and have tried to simply hide those deficiencies with wider gaskets, no gaskets, inferior caulk joints, missing caulking and window part adjustment that exceeds tolerances. These are the main reasons for the current leak problems.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in 24th Judicial District Court, says MAPP ordered remedial repairs to the crime lab, but they “were neither successful nor sufficiently extensive.” That resulted in more leaks during “a mild rainstorm” on Feb. 11, 2014, and there have been more since.

The lawsuit — prepared on behalf of the parish by lawyers Dennis Phayer, Christopher Tankersley and Elizabeth Doubleday — accuses MAPP and Sizeler of breach of contract, alleging that the design and construction of the crime lab were faulty.

Other defendants include MAPP’s and Sizeler’s insurance carriers, who weren’t named on the documents filed Wednesday, and Travelers Casualty & Surety Co. of America, which issued a bond guaranteeing MAPP’s performance in the project.

Attorneys for the defendants could not be reached for comment Thursday.