BVCSD Press Release
Bear Valley Community Services District v. Willdan Engineering
Kern County Superior Court Case No. BCV-19-101809
Bear Valley Springs:
On March 17, 2023, Kern County Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Eric Bradshaw issued his long-awaited post-trial ruling in the lawsuit brought by the Bear Valley Community Services District (District) against Willdan Engineering (Willdan) arising from engineering services Willdan performed for the District on the Bear Valley Road and Cumberland Road Rehabilitation Project (Project). The Project work took place in 2017, but the roadway paving began failing soon after completion in early 2018.
Following a nearly two-week court trial in late November and early December 2022, in his decision, Judge Bradshaw found that “Willdan’s professional engineering services for District fell below the applicable standard of care, amounting to negligence and breach of contract.” Judge Bradshaw also found that “Willdan incorrectly represented the design life of the rehabilitated roads (i.e., 15-20 years) … and District relied on those representations to its detriment.” In sum, the court ruled that at trial the “District proved that Willdan’s professional negligence, breach of contract and negligent misrepresentations were a substantial factor in causing District damages in the total sum of $7,941,000.00, which represents the estimated cost of repairing … the rehabilitated roads.”
“This is a tremendous outcome for the District and the residents of Bear Valley Springs,” according to District General Manager Bill Malinen. “I started at the District not long after the Project was completed and it was evident that there was a serious problem. Willdan initially attempted to blame the construction contractor, but we had doubts about their position because the entire length of the rehabilitated roadway was failing, which would be very unusual if it was simply defective workmanship. We retained a professional engineer, Paul Curren, who has spent his entire career doing road projects, to inspect the work. He prepared a very thorough analysis and report on the work, which concluded that the failures were a design issue and that Willdan did not meet the expected engineering standard of care for the Project. We presented a summary of Mr. Curren’s findings to Willdan and were literally told by their General Counsel
that ‘The District’s allegations are completely frivolous and in bad faith.’ Having no choice but to pursue a claim against Willdan in court, we proceeded to have our General Counsel’s firm, Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP, file a lawsuit against Willdan. The case was handled by Todd Wulfsberg, who did a masterful job.”
“I recommended Todd to the District,” said District General Counsel Don Davis, “because as part of our firm’s construction law practice group, he understood the engineering issues, and knew how to explain those details to the court. Todd worked the case singlehandedly and was a tireless advocate for the District. Judge Bradshaw’s ruling tracks all of the arguments Todd made at trial, which is a testament to his skillful presentation. Moreover, the damages award is the exact figure that Paul Curren testified to, so clearly the court viewed Mr. Curren’s expert testimony as the most credible.”
General Counsel Davis went on to note that “In addition to the great preparation and trial work by Todd Wulfsberg and Paul Curren, and constant support and input from General Manager Malinen, I also want to acknowledge our past and present Road Supervisors Will Parks and Daniel Haggard and staff members Kristy McEwen and Dawn Smith who provided documents, testimony, coordinated numerous inspections, and monitored the continuing damage to the roads throughout this long ordeal. I also want to thank all past and present Board Members who stayed the course in our pursuit of justice against Willdan.”
As summarized by former District Board President Rick Zanutto, who also testified at trial regarding the many years the District had saved for the Project and the expectation that the roads would remain in good condition for the 15-20 years that Willdan had represented prior to construction, “This is great news for the community that pays for these roads.”
The District’s legal counsel will now prepare a proposed judgment for Judge Bradshaw’s consideration consistent with his tentative ruling. Once that judgment is entered, Willdan could file an appeal, so it may be months or even years before the case is finalized.