SE Texas Record

Friday, December 6, 2019

Roofer found not liable for water leak at Methodist Hospital

By John Sammon | Oct 27, 2017


HOUSTON – Water damage to a hospital during a 2012 storm was not a result of negligence caused by a roofer, an appeals court ruled.

The Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas cleared the subcontractor of responsibility in an Oct.19 ruling.

Methodist Hospital of Houston previously hired Hensel Phelps Construction Co., a nationwide general contractor based in Greely, Colo., to construct a new outpatient center. Royal American Services Inc. of Bellaire, Texas, was hired to install the roof for the project. The work was performed during 2008 and 2009, and a completion certificate issued for the project in 2010.

A severe rainstorm struck the Houston area in January of 2012. Rainwater entering the building through a door to the roof damaged electrical equipment at the facility.

Hensel Phelps paid the hospital $1 million to settle claims for water damage and then sued two of the subcontractors on the project -- Royal American Services, the roof installer, and Arrowall Co., the San Antonio-based firm that had installed the roof door.

Hensel Phelps reached a $110,000 settlement with Arrowall out of court and then sued Royal American for negligent construction and breach of contract.

Royal American counter-claimed, seeking costs it incurred in repairing the roof at the request of Hensel Phelps after the storm damage had taken place.

The dispute centered on whether Royal American had installed beneath the roof door “counter-flashing,” a piece of metal applied to masonry designed to shed water off a wall and onto a roof.

Hensel Phelps alleged that Royal American had failed to install the counter-flashing on the roof door. Royal American countered that it had installed the flashing, but another party -- presumably Arrowall -- had removed it during a modification of the door.

The court brief noted that Royal American workers had completed their work and were not present when the door was modified. Witnesses presented conflicting testimony, and both companies produced engineering experts to testify in their behalf.

Evidence supporting the claims of Royal American that it had installed the flashing came in testimony noting that a storm in July of 2010 after the roof project completion did not result in water damage to the hospital. The modification to the door and the removal of the flashing was made later but prior to the 2012 storm, according to the brief. 

After hearing the evidence, a trial court rendered a “take-nothing” judgement (recognizing merits of argument but with no monetary awards) on Hensel Phelps’ claims, and awarded Royal American $4,500 in damages and attorney fees.

The court found that Royal American did not fail to install the flashing, and the flashing had been removed after the company had completed its work.

Attorneys for Hensel Phelps appealed.

"We reject Hensel Phelps’s contention that the agreement (contract) requires Royal American to indemnify Hensel Phelps for losses for something allegedly a third party did to Royal American’s work," the court said in affirming the lower court's judgment.

The court rejected Hensel Phelps’s claims for indemnity and negligence.                    

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Organizations in this Story

Houston Methodist Hospital