Lu Sues Over Guardrail Claims

Wed September 28, 2005 - Southeast Edition

NASHVILLE, TN (AP) An installer of highway guardrails has sued the state over having its contracts suspended for what the company said are false claims of shoddy work.

Lu Inc., based in Kingston Springs, is seeking to have the court issue a stay of its contract suspension, reinstate its contracts, rule on the propriety of the state’s actions against the company and to recover court costs. The suit was filed Sept. 7 in Davidson County Chancery Court.

“We have been served with it, but that’s really all I can say about it,” said Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman of Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers.

Lu received $40 million in state contracts since 1998, plus millions more in subcontract work.

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) officials have said Lu did not sink guardrail posts as deep as required, making them ineffective. The posts were sunk 12 in. deep instead of the required 44 in.

A former employee of Lu said it was common for workers to cut the posts short.

The claims led to a federal investigation of Lu and a TDOT survey of all 4,000 mi. of guardrails in the state.

“The department is entering into the second phase of the process and beginning to pull, check, and replace if needed, any guardrail terminals that were flagged as possibly being deficient,” TDOT Spokeswoman Julie A. Oaks said. “That process will take until the end of the year.”

Lu has been under contract to repair damaged guardrails for 60 percent of the state.

The company also has installed $19 million worth of new guardrails on some of the state’s largest construction projects.

Lu officials have denied wrongdoing and said they are allowed to install posts less than the required depth when bedrock or other obstructions make digging to 44 in. impossible.

TDOT claimed another company, KRD Corp. of East Ridge, also installed unsafe guardrails.

The lawsuit also states TDOT allowed other contractors accused of installing unsafe guardrails to correct problems at their own expense, something Lu offered to do, but was denied. The suit also contends Lu was singled out for harsher treatment, because other installers were merely fined and did not have contracts suspended.

TDOT declined comment on the lawsuit.