Superior Schools Sue Over Fire That Delayed Cooper Building Construction
A fire and successive explosions burned and damaged the Cooper School Building during its construction in 2018, resulting in a delayed finish and opening for the elementary school building. Now the Superior School District is suing the general contractor and a sub-contractor for damages.
According to details shared in an article in the Duluth News Tribune [paywall], the Superior School District is looking to recoup $247,534 from Minneapolis-based Kraus-Anderson Construction Company - the general contractor of record for the work and Prostar Surfaces, Inc. - a subcontractor. There $15 million in damages caused by the fire; the remainder dollars represent what wasn't paid out by ACE American Insurance Company.
The fire at the construction site of the building might have started small, but grew large in a short amount of time:
"The original fire started in the school's gymnasium storage area and burned through a natural gas line, according to Superior Fire Department inspectors. That fire went out, but gas flowing from the boiler room reached the heat from the original fire, causing an explosion. The process was repeated multiple times. After officials shut gas off to the building and firefighters knocked the fire down, they returned nine hours later when the fire rekindled on the roof."
Investigators determined that the cause of the fire - and the resulting series of explosions - was due to "improper storage of rags containing petroleum-based materials that were heaped together for an extended time....spontaneously combust[ing]". Investigators singled out ProStar Surfaces for leaving the rags in the fashion they were, and then Kraus Anderson "as overall contractor responsible for the subcontractors actions".
The overage from the insurance claim came as a different subcontractor filed a bill for $247,534 for "delay costs because the project was sidelined [by the fire] for a year". That bill and claim was denied by the insurance company and the Superior School District has objected.
For their part, the district believes that the contractor should be responsible for all associated costs with the delay - and not them, because it wasn't their fault. Project architect LHB mediated and determined that "based on the evidence presented, the fire was caused by the storage of cloths and cleaning products by one of Kraus-Anderson's subcontractors"; however, "the district had already agreed to pay for the additional site work".
The defendants - Kraus-Anderson and Prostar Surfaces - now have 20 days to provide a response to the lawsuit brought on by the plaintiff - the school district.