The Shedd Aquarium has asked a judge to order the general contractor that oversaw the renovation of its Oceanarium to pay almost $3 million to cover the aquarium’s costs to replace underwater gates in the Oceanarium, which the aquarium said rusted because they were poorly constructed.
On Nov. 4, the John G. Shedd Aquarium Society, which oversees operations at the world’s largest indoor aquarium and one of Chicago’s biggest tourism draws, filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against Walsh Construction Company, of Chicago, asserting the company should be held liable for the money Shedd has paid since 2009 to replace the faulty gates, which Shedd said became defective after purportedly poor quality welds corroded.
The dispute stems back to the days leading up to the completion of the renovation of Shedd’s Oceanarium in 2009. The Oceanarium is home to the marine mammals in Shedd’s care, including the aquarium’s beluga whales, and is the venue in which the aquarium stages its aquatic wildlife show.
Shedd, through its architect Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, of Chicago, had hired Walsh in 2007 to serve as general contractor for the $55 million project.
According to the lawsuit, Walsh’s contract included provisions directing them to hire a subcontractor with experience in the particular kind of welding and metal fabrication needed to create quality underwater gates, such as the four new gates the aquarium needed to be installed at the Oceanarium. The project also called for the modification of five existing underwater gates.
However, according to the lawsuit, Shedd alleged Walsh hired a contractor for the gate work which “is not a firm experienced in producing metal fabrications similar to the Oceanarium underwater stainless steel gates” and whose welders “were not properly qualified or certified for the welding processes required” to produce the gates.
In 2009, during punch list inspections, representatives of the architect first noticed rust on the gates.
In the years following, Shedd said it notified Walsh in writing of what Shedd believed to be the contractor’s responsibility to fix the gates.
In September 2011, an engineering and architecture firm hired by Walsh confirmed the problems with the gates and recommended all nine gates be replaced, the lawsuit said.
However, the contractor has steadfastly refused to replace the gates at its own cost, Shedd said in its complaint.
In 2012, Shedd terminated its contract with Walsh – a decision it said was backed by its architect – and, in 2013, hired another company to replace the gates at a cost of $3.022 million. Shedd then sent Walsh an invoice for that amount, which the contractor has again refused to pay, prompting Shedd to file its complaint.
Shedd’s complaint alleged counts of breach of contract, breach of warranty, negligent damage to property and indemnity against Walsh.
The aquarium is seeking damages of more than $2.7 million.
Shedd is represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath, of Chicago.