MTA drops remaining claims against Tutor-Saliba-Perini

The Daily Journal's Ciaran McEvoy seems to have this alone, in today's paper. In advance of next week's trial in the long-running and expensive case over Red Line subway construction, Metro has dropped further action against the agency's major contractor. But it's complicated:

Attorneys for the MTA on Tuesday told Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl they would agree to have judgment entered in favor of Tutor-Saliba, including a stipulation that MTA must pay the contractor more than $1.1 million. Agency lawyers said the actions taken were for efficiency's sake and are not an admission of liability.

However, the decision to abandon next week's trial does not end the bitter legal dispute between the parties. It clears the way for an expected appeal by Tutor-Saliba, if the anticipated judgment includes a finding that the company violated the California False Claims Act, which would bar it from future government contracts.

The MTA, along with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the MTA's outside counsel, withdrew its remaining allegations that the contractor violated the False Claims Act and unfair competition laws as outlined in its amended complaint. Tutor-Saliba-Perini J.V. v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, BC123559.

Nomi L. Castle of Castle & Associates in Beverly Hills, who represents Tutor-Saliba, told the court MTA's action was "unilateral" and it was giving Tutor-Saliba "every dollar that we asked to pay."

Speaking after Tuesday's hearing, Deputy County Counsel Charles M. Safer said MTA's decision was "a matter of judicial efficiency."

The parties have been in court since 1995, with both sides claiming they were bilked during the Red Line subway construction along Wilshire Boulevard. In 2001, Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin found Tutor-Saliba committed discovery violations, dismissed its claims mid-trial and assessed $30 million in fees, costs and interests to the contractor. An appellate court overturned that ruling in 2005. In 2006, a jury found Tutor-Saliba overbilled MTA and violated the False Claims Act. The Daily Journal reported in January that "MTA has spent at least $32 million litigating the case through two trials and an appeal, even though it stood to recover just $10 million."

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