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Cal U, Manheim Corp. Agree to Settlement Over Partial Parking Garage Collapse

— September 22, 2020

California University recently agreed to settle a lawsuit against its contractor, Manheim Corp. of Pittsburgh, over a 2016 parking garage collapse.

A lawsuit between California University and its contractor, Manheim Corp. of Pittsburgh, recently settled a lawsuit that was filed over the partial collapse of a five-level parking garage at the university in 2016. Now that the suit has been settled, work to repair the structure will commence. According to the settlement, university officials will receive “nearly $4 million to cover repair costs and other expenses, including lost parking revenue since the 650-space Vulcan Garage was abruptly shut in August 2016 just as the fall move-in was beginning that year.”

Wooden gavel on black, reflective surface; image via, CCO.
Wooden gavel on black, reflective surface; image via, CCO.

What happened to cause the collapse back in 2016, though? According to the suit, a “20-foot-by-2-foot piece of concrete broke loose from the garage’s second level and hit the ground on Aug. 26, 2016, not far from pedestrians.” Fortunately, no one was injured and vehicles weren’t damaged. Nonetheless, university officials “sealed off the garage and removed parked vehicles.”

The garage is located in the middle of the campus, right behind the library. For the last four years, the structure’s entries have been blocked by barriers to prevent anyone from entering. According to the lawsuit and emails between university officials and the contractor, the “garage’s floor framing consisted of precast concrete load-bearing structures called double-tees, each 12-feet wide, with extensions or flanges reinforced with carbon fiber mesh.” 

On September 13, 2016, outside engineer Wiss, Janney Elstner Associates sent an email to Michael Kanalis, the interim Cal U director of facilities at the time, “just after the firm was hired to investigate and analyze the failure.” In the email, Phillip Elgin said, “You [Mr. Kanalis] have reported that part of a double-tee flange on the second level failed and collapsed to the floor below.” 

Over time, additional inspections were conducted that found “additional safety hazards in the nearly $13 million garage, part of a billion-dollar building boom the previous decade that reshaped the 14 state-owned universities including California.” However, later on, those investments added to “debt worries across the State System of Higher Education as enrollment peaked in 2010 at nearly 120,000 students.” Since then, enrollment has been declining and now stands at about 96,000.

The revenue lost from the collapsed garage only further strained the university’s financial stress, especially considering that enrollment at the school has dropped from 9,400 in 2010 to about 6,800 in the fall of 2019.

The lawsuit itself was filed by Cal U in Washington County Common Pleas Court against Manheim “and its bond-holder, Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America.” Earlier last week, university trustees confirmed the suit has been resolved. Robert Thorn, the vice president for administration and finance at Cal U said, “After a painstaking forensic investigation and a long and complex legal process, we have a solution that we believe is fair and equitable.”

For now, if the repairs go well, the facility is expected to reopen in the spring of 2021. Cal U also issued the following statement:

“A complete repair of the five-level parking structure will be funded entirely by the defendants, at an estimated cost of $2.4 million…Cal U will receive about $1.35 million as reimbursement for non-construction expenditures, such as legal fees, engineering costs and lost parking revenue, which the University estimated at $275,000 per year.”


Lawsuit settled over Cal U garage that partially collapsed in 2016

Cal U sues contractor over collapse of garage


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