Knights of Columbus sue city for damages

The Knights of Columbus has sued the city of New Haven and two demolition companies for property damage to its downtown headquarters caused by the 18-second implosion of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in 2007.

The 127-year-old international Catholic organization is demanding at least $15,000 in reparations, according to the K. of C.’s complaint filed Monday at the New Haven branch of the state Superior Court. But K. of C. Vice President for Communications Patrick Korten told the News on Tuesday that the group is asking for $1 million for damages to the George Street headquarters, which included the shattering of more than 60 windows and breaking of tiles on its newly-renovated roof.

“The liability was very clear, and the damage was done,” he said Tuesday. “It is no question that we have a valid claim.”

In addition to the city of New Haven, Trumbull, Conn-based demolition contractor Stamford Wrecking Company and Franklin, Tenn.-based subcontractor Demolition Dynamics Company were named as defendants in the suit. No court date for the lawsuit has been set.

According to the complaint, the K. of C. blames all three defendants for the damage incurred on its building and surrounding property. The complaint says that the parties are liable for payment because the demolition was “abnormally dangerous and ultrahazardous” and the city and companies had demolished the Coliseum with “substantial certainty” that it would result in property damage to the K. of C. building, among other reasons.

The city also “provided assurances [to K. of C. officials] … that the Property would be protected during the implosion and that there was no need to undertake any special measures to safeguard” the headquarters, according to the complaint. Korten said K. of C. officials hold the city ultimately responsible.

But city officials reject that they have any liability for the property damage.

In an interview with the News on Tuesday, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the city had required both companies to individually buy $10 million insurance in order to provide compensation for nearby sites. He added that more than reasonable steps were taken to protect the property, but that the city was that it could not guarantee there wouldn’t be any damage from the demolition.

DeStefano added that a disagreement between Demolition Dynamics’ insurance company, USI of Cincinnati, and the K. of C. led to the lack of payment for the building damage.

Demolition Dynamics and Stamford Wrecking Company officials did not return repeated calls for comment on Tuesday.

The Supreme Council of the K. of C., the organization’s highest governing body, notified the city in October that the group would sue the now-named defendants if the two-year time frame for collecting insurance claims ran out. Since then, DeStefano said, city lawyer Carl Amento ’72 has met with Daniel Sager — a local insurance adjustor representing USI — and the Supreme Council multiple times in order to resolve issues.

“Our position will be that this is the insurance company’s responsibility and the contractor’s,” DeStefano said. “We don’t expect any liability for the city.”

Amento and Sager could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Amento told the New Haven Register on Tuesday that a settlement among the parties is “95 percent complete.” But Korten told the News that the “discussions [have] dragged on endlessly.”

The K. of C. has enlisted the help of Hartford-based Day Pitney LLP to write the complaint and work on the case. A voice mail message left with a Day Pitney representative went unreturned Tuesday.

The Knights of Columbus building was constructed 40 years ago by Hamden-based Kevin Roche Dinkeloo and Associates, which also developed the Coliseum.

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