Tenn. Builder Defends Superdome Roof in Katrina Suit

September 5, 2006

Bridgestone Corp. of Nashville, Tenn. says the force of Hurricane Katrina — not faulty installation of new roofing materials — caused the destruction of the roof of the Louisiana Superdome.

The Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, the state of Louisiana and the building’s insurers, last week sued Bridgestone and 13 other defendants, claiming rubberized roof completed in 2002 should have survived the storm intact.

Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. said its warranty excludes “acts of God,” including damage caused by winds faster than 55 mph.

“As America has seen over the past year, the damaging effects of this natural disaster were unprecedented,” Bridgestone said in the release. “The damages sustained by buildings and infrastructure throughout the region reflect the enormity of this storm.”

At the height of the storm on Aug. 29, 2005, the wind peeled away the Superdome’s rubberized roof, which, before Katrina, was believed to be able to withstand winds of 200 miles an hour.

Winds were estimated to have been between 74 and 95 miles per hour at the time, according to the National Weather Service.

The lawsuit also contends the new roof had “suffered from numerous leaks and other defects” even before the hurricane. But Bridgestone spokeswoman Tina Gaines said her records show only two leaks that needed minor repairs before the storm.

Doug Thornton, a vice president of the company that manages the building, said 70 percent of roof failed during the hurricane, allowing rain to pour down on most areas inside.

“There was a massive failure in the roof resulting in its complete destruction, water saturating the interior of the Superdome and the beginning of a long nightmare for the tens of thousands trapped inside,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit does not specify the damages it seeks, but plaintiffs’ lawyer Larry M. Roedel said damages could exceed $100 million.

Rebuilding the Superdome’s roof has cost $32 million, he said. The stadium is preparing for the NFL home opener of the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 25.

Topics Lawsuits Louisiana Tennessee

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