C. Robert Schaub, Attorney at Law, for claimant.
Robert F. Bible, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


This claim arises out of a construction project in Cabell County
designated as Project
X306-106-0.00, C-S/BRF-106(001)3 and commonly referred to as the East
Huntington Bridge
project. The parties are Barboursville Bridge Co., a West Virginia-based
company and the
West Virginia Department of Highways, the respondent. As part of the
contract, claimant
contractor, hereinafter referred to as Barboursville Bridge, was
required to submit design
computations and working drawings for the construction of cofferdams. On
July 17, 1981, one
of the cofferdams constructed by Barboursville Bridge collapsed,
resulting in extra labor and
costs. Claimant contends that he design approved by respondent was
faulty and seeks an award
f $272,852.88

Respondent alleges that claimant did not comply with the design
specifications. More
specifically, at the time of the cofferdam failure, the cofferdam wa
snot in its final design
configuration. The piling was not adequately keyed into the rock, and
the rings were not at the
proper elevations.

The East Huntington Bridge has four approach ramps that cross the
Guyandotte River. To
construct the approach ramps, it was necessary to erect four piers and
subpiers. To erect the
aforementioned bridge structures, Barboursville Bridge was required to
construct four steel
sheet piling cofferdams.

David Roberts, project superintendent for claimant as well as the
designer of the failed
cofferdam, described the method of constructing cofferdams. The outside
sheet piling must be
driven into the ground to a depth sufficient to provide support and
prevent lateral movement.
The water is pumped out, the overburden of dirt is excavated, and steel
rings are placed inside
the outer perimeter of the cofferdam's interior. After the rings are
placed and the excavation is
completed, the subfooter for the bridge pier is poured. After the
subfooter is poured, the
cofferdam wall is braced off against the bottom of the subfooter. At the
time of the collapse, the
riverside wall of the cofferdam gave way when digging operations for the
pouring of the
subfooter were in progress.

Barboursville Bridge submitted the originally designed cofferdam
structure to respondent for
approval by letter dated January 10, 1981. Respondent found this design
to be unacceptable.
Two subsequent designs were submitted March 14, 1981 and April 10, 1981,
respectively. The
last design, which raised the bottom ring six feet above the original
proposal, to comply with
respondent's objections, was accepted, subject to a minor change.

Mr. Roberts stated that in designing these cofferdams the following
were considered: "... the
area which we had to encase to do our work, the material which we had to
go down through,
and the height of the materials and so forth to get our design
pressures." although the four
cofferdams had differing conditions, Mr. Roberts stated that the initial
design was for the worst
conditions to be encountered. The sheet piling was to be driven through
all riverbed materials to
a depth required to prevent any lateral displacement of the sheeting.
However, the riverbed
material was red shale, which is very unstable when exposed to air or
water, rather than
undisturbed rock. Barboursville drove the piling to a depth sufficient
to prevent water from
coming into the cofferdam. This is necessary to "key the rock", i.e., to
provide sufficient lateral
support for the piling. Roberts admitted that it is possible to drive
into the piling to the point
where the water is sealed off, yet insufficient to prevent lateral
movement. Roberts also admitted
he had no personal knowledge as to the exact elevation of the bottom
ring at the time the
cofferdam collapsed, nor could he confirm that the piling was adequately
keyed into the rock at
the time of the collapse.

Louis Koshar, an engineer with E. Lionel Pavlo Engineering Company, the
company, testified concerning Special Provision 212.5 which was written
by Pavlo. He stated
that this provision requires the claimant to build an internally braced
cofferdam and to drive the
sheet piling through all riverbed materials to a depth sufficient to
prevent any lateral displacement
of the sheeting. He explained that attachment A, the original design,
was returned to claimant
because the design as submitted was not representative of Piers, A3, A4,
and B4. It was only
representative of Pier B3. By returning it, Pavlo was permitting the
contractor to submit separate
designs for the other piers. Comment 7 required the claimant to submit
its procedure for
excavating, installing, dewatering the cofferdam, and pouring the
concrete in the dry. Koshar
stated that "... if you went to the support at elevation 495, which was
the original design
elevation, you might have gotten a displacement that might have been in
the range of
three-eighths of an inch ..." He testified that the provision calls for
no lateral displacement. He
admitted that if one keyed into the rock and got three-eighths of an
inch displacement, that would
be acceptable. Mr. Koshar has no experience working on cofferdams in the
dry nor had he
every been inside a cofferdam. He also stated that the contractor must
assume that the materials
into which the cofferdam is to be keyed will support it.

James Sothen, Supervisor in charge of the Consultant Review Section of
the Structures
Division of respondent, testified concerning keying into the rock. He
stated that shale material "...
is a very unpredictable material." It is a fair assumption to say that
nobody can really predict
what the material might do. "Well, this particular rock, generally the
top surface once it's
exposed to water and air, generally decomposes quite rapidly." He stated
that to reach to a
much harder type of shale, it would have been necessary to drive the
sheet piling eleven
additional feet. "At 11 feet, the farther you go, the more resistance on
the rock you get," the
witness stated.

The respondent contends that Barboursville Bridge's actions in the week
preceding the
collapse of the cofferdam caused the collapse. Barboursville Bridge
performed blasting
operations inside of the cofferdam to prepare a surface for the
subfooter. Employees also were
utilizing an 80-ton crane to construct cofferdam A4 (the cofferdam which
collapsed) within
25-30 feet of the land side of the nearest wall of the cofferdam. It was
assumed that all
construction would be done from equipment on the river side of the
cofferdams. The
aforementioned crane was on the land side of the nearest wall of the
cofferdam. In addition, the
day before the failure, respondent's records revealed that a "blow in"
had occurred on cofferdam
A4 requiring water to be pumped out. This should have provided
Barboursville Bridge with
notice that the walls were not sufficiently supported and that
precautionary measures should
have been taken to strengthen the support.

The Court, having reviewed all of the evidence, has determined that the
major factor in the
collapse of the cofferdam was the design requirement that the sheet
piling be driven into material
on the river bottom sufficiently to "key" into the rock, and that this
was to be considered another
ring for the support of the structure, rather than providing the support
within the cofferdam
structure itself. This appears to have been an impractical requirement
considering the depth of
hard shale material necessary for the sheet piling to reach in order to
attain the desired support.
However, the Court is also of the opinion that actions on the part of
Barboursville Bridge
contributed to the failure of the cofferdam and that Barboursville
Bridge should have been more
vocal in its objection to the design changes. Therefore, the Court is of
the opinion to grant an
award to Barboursville Bridge in the amount of $136,426.00.

Award of $136,426.00.