Lowndes County School District's insurance carrier, Middlesex Insurance Company, is suing both the district and West Brothers Construction in federal district court in an ongoing dispute over responsibility for the leaky roof at New Hope High School. West Brothers is seeking coverage for leaks that occurred before the contractor's policy period with Middlesex, according to court documents. LCSD sued West Brothers in circuit court last year, seeking monetary damages for the leaky roof. Photo by: Dispatch file photo
January 12, 2021 10:08:01 AM
Lowndes County School District's insurance company filed a lawsuit in federal district court against both the school district and the Columbus-based construction company it contracted for a roofing project that began leaking less than two months after completion.
The Dec. 14, 2020, suit from Wisconsin-based Middlesex Insurance Company adds to existing litigation in the ongoing dispute between LCSD and West Brothers Construction Inc. over the leaky roof at New Hope High School.
Middlesex claims West Brothers is seeking coverage for leaks that occurred before the contractor's policy period with the insurance company, which began July 1, 2019, more than a year after the project was completed.
Middlesex is seeking two declaratory judgments from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi: one asserting that the damage to the roof existed before the policy period and one that "there is no coverage because there is no occurrence within Middlesex's policy period."
The $24.3 million NHHS -- the most expensive of several district facilities paid for by a $44 million bond issue voters approved in 2015 -- was completed in February 2018. Nearly 200 leaks occurred within the first year and caused "massive" damage to the school, according to a Lowndes County Circuit Court lawsuit LCSD filed in July 2020 against West Brothers, New Jersey-based GAF Materials and Lindsey Roofing LLC. West Brothers subcontracted Columbus-based Lindsey Roofing to install the roof that New Jersey-based GAF manufactured.
LCSD seeks at least $1 million in compensatory damages and at least $1 million in general damages from all three defendants. The suit alleges that GAF and Lindsey have not fulfilled their warranties, which include Lindsey's three-year installers' warranty running through 2021 and a 20-year guarantee from GAF that runs through Feb. 9, 2038.
Federal court documents for Middlesex's suit against West Brothers do not clarify why the insurance company is also suing LCSD, and the district board's attorney, Jeff Smith, said he is not sure of this either.
Galloway Chandler McKinney represented West Brothers' general liability insurance until July 1, 2019, when the construction company switched its coverage to Middlesex, said Cecil Vaughan of Galloway Chandler McKinney's Columbus office.
Smith said he has not heard anything from West Brothers' attorney, Cody Bailey of the Brunini Grantham Grower Hewes law firm in Jackson. Bailey told The Dispatch he cannot comment on pending litigation.
Middlesex's attorney, Norman Stockman of the Hand Arendall Harrison Sale firm in Mobile, Alabama, and LCSD Superintendent Sam Allison also could not be reached for comment.
Middlesex is also Columbus Municipal School District's insurance provider, and the company filed a federal lawsuit against CMSD in March 2020 over the cost of repairs to all four of the former Hunt High School buildings damaged in the Feb. 23, 2019 tornado.
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