Wold files cross-claim petition against structural engineering firm in partial Davenport building collapse

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 8:57 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The owner of The Davenport, which partially collapsed in late May, has filed a cross-claim petition against an engineering firm that inspected the building.

The attorneys for Andrew Wold and the Davenport Hotel LLC filed the petition against Select Structural Engineering as part of their answer to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the estate of Brandon Colvin Sr.

Colvin and two other men - Ryan Hitchcock and Daniel Prien - were found dead in the building following the partial collapse at 324 Main St. on May 28.

A cross-complaint is an independent action brought by a party against a co-party, the original plaintiff, or someone who is not yet a party in a lawsuit. The complaint must arise out of the same occurrence of the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant.

The four-count petition alleges professional negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, and contribution.

According to the petition:

In early February, Wold hired Select Structural to conduct an inspection of the Davenport Hotel, including the building’s west wall, and to provide professional engineering advice regarding the condition of the building and any repairs that needed to be performed on it.

On Feb. 2, David Valliere, a structural engineer with Select Structural, did an inspection, with a particular focus on the west wall, of the building.

He was given complete access to inspect any part of the building he wanted to see.

Valliere later provided a report of his inspection to Wold that noted some damage to the west wall but said “[t]he main takeaway from the inspection is that this damaged area is not an imminent danger to the entire building and its residents. An evacuation or lockout of the building is not necessary at this time.”

On Feb. 8, Valliere provided Wold and Davenport officials with a further report of his inspection.

The report explained that a “localized area of brick is cracked and crumbling” on the “west exterior wall.” Valliere added, however, that “this is not an imminent threat to the building or its residents.”

Valliere also said that any damaged portions of the brick wall could be safely removed and replaced and recommended procedures that should be carried out to accomplish this.

Valliere did not say the damage to the west wall posed a danger to the structural integrity of the building as a whole or a danger to residents or others. He told Wold and City Inspector Trishna Pradham that the building was not in danger of collapsing.

That led city officials to determine that an evacuation of the building was not necessary and informed Wold of that determination.

Relying on Valliere’s advice, Wold began repairing the west wall which was consistent with the recommendations in the Feb. 8 report.

A contractor hired by Wold quickly installed shoring and supports called for in Valliere’s report. Wold also hired Bi-State Masonry, Inc. to perform masonry repairs to the west wall.

While performing repairs on the west wall, Bi-State identified a void between the façade and the supporting concrete-masonry-unit wall. At Wold’s request, Valliere performed a follow-up inspection of the building on Feb. 23.

Valliere issued a report of his follow-up inspection on Feb. 28; this report first noted that the repairs Wold was performing on the property were “going according to plan.” He also noted the void space identified by Bi-State and said the issue could be addressed by removing the brick façade in this area and then constructing an additional layer of CMU.

Valliere also said no other changes to the original repair program he had prescribed were necessary.

The city, through its inspectors, regularly inspected and approved the repairs being performed.

On May 17, Bi-State Masonry told Wold it had completed the repairs to the wall that were consistent with Valliere’s reports. The company also sought approval of the completed repairs from the city, which granted it.

Wold asked Valliere to conduct a further inspection of the building, which happened on May 23. During or shortly after the inspection, Valliere again told Wold and the City the building was not at risk of collapse and that an evacuation was not necessary.

He also prepared another report and provided it to Wold and the city on May 24.

Valliere noted that “there are several large patches of clay brick façade which are separating from the substrate.”

Although Valliere said that this “may create a safety hazard to cars or passersby,” he did not indicate that the building might collapse or that there was any danger to residents of the building.

He also did not say that the building should be evacuated. Instead, he suggested additional repairs that would allow the brick façade to “be brought down in a safe, controlled manner.”

Wold began performing the additional repairs called for in the report and continued to work on those repairs until the building collapsed.

The city, through its inspectors, approved Valliere’s report and inspected and approved the repairs being carried out by Wold, according to the petition.

Wold, the City of Davenport, and Select Structural Engineering are facing multiple lawsuits in Scott County following the collapse.