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May 20, 2022

CT Supreme Court orders new trial in Dunkin’ Donuts Park construction lawsuit

PHOTO | Contributed Dunkin Donuts Park

The state Supreme Court has ordered a new trial in a lawsuit filed by Centerplan Construction, the original developer of Dunkin’ Donuts Park, against the city of Hartford, concerning the company’s termination from the project following a dispute over alleged construction delays.

The legal question before the state’s high court was whether the plaintiffs – Middletown-based Centerplan and DoNo Hartford LLC – "controlled" the architect and were therefore responsible for any mistakes in, and changes to, the stadium design. 

Earlier, a Superior Court judge ruled that contracts between the parties gave the plaintiffs “the power to direct the design” of the ballpark in addition to “the responsibility for the architect's errors and omissions.” A jury found the plaintiffs responsible for cost overruns and delays, and ordered them to pay the city $335,000 in damages.

The companies’ appeal of that decision landed at the high court.

In a 5-0 decision issued Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned the trial court’s ruling that the parties’ contracts “did not unambiguously grant the plaintiffs legal control of the architect and the stadium's design across all relevant time periods.”

The high court found that the trial court’s ruling improperly took questions of fact from the jury’s consideration. The case will be remanded to Superior Court for a new trial.

The yearslong legal battle stems from Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s decision in May 2016 to call the developer’s $47.1 million bond on the project. The city’s performance bond insurer, Arch Insurance Co., hired a new contractor to complete the stadium, which is home to Colorado Rockies’ minor league affiliate, the Yard Goats.

Centerplan filed a lawsuit against the city, seeking $90 million in damages. 

Last April, city officials told the Hartford Business Journal they stood by their decision to fire Centerplan and that they were confident they “did exactly the right thing to protect the taxpayers of Hartford from an irresponsible contractor.”

Centerplan and DoNo Hartford LLC are controlled by developer Robert Landino, who has said the project was behind schedule because of multiple last-minute design changes ordered by the city.

Read the Supreme Court decision below:

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