LaShip, LLC v. Hayward Baker, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3694 (5th Cir. Mar. 1, 2017)
Beginning in 2007, LaShip, LLC (“LaShip”) undertook the construction of a large shipbuilding facility in Houma, Louisiana (the “Project”), situated on its own private land as well as land owned by the Terrebonne Port Commission (“TPC) – a subdivision of the Louisiana state government. In July 2008, LaShip accepted a bid from Hayward Baker, Inc. (“HBI”) to complete the soil mixing and drill shaft work on the Project.
The contract between LaShip and HBI (the “Contract”) provided for HBI to install subterranean soil-mix columns to form the foundation of the shipbuilding facility and prevent it from collapsing into the soft and compressible Louisiana soil. Pursuant to the Contract, HBI obtained soil samples to ascertain the columns’ strength. Laboratory testing revealed that, in general, the soil possessed the requisite compressive strength provided for in the Contract. Nevertheless, as the work progressed the columns exhibited spiraling, and HBI experienced several cave-ins during its installation of the drill shafts and unwanted settlement of the foundation columns.
On January 21, 2011, LaShip filed suit against HBI in the Louisiana Federal District Court alleging that HBI violated Louisiana law by not warning LaShip about alleged defects in the design of the columns. TPC joined the lawsuit on March 6, 2013, also claiming that HBI acted negligently in failing to warn of a dangerous condition. The District Court ruled that LaShip failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence its claims against HBI. LaShip and TPC then appealed.