Court removes delay in Harmon tower lawsuit

The Nevada Supreme Court has ended a nearly yearlong delay in a lawsuit between developers of CityCenter and Perini Building Co., potentially setting the stage for implosion of the unfinished Harmon tower.

The ruling signed Wednesday came in a case that will determine whether Perini or CityCenter developer MGM Resorts International is financially responsible for damages to the troubled building. While limited, the ruling clears away an issue that has delayed resolution of the legal battle and, ultimately, the fate of the building.

Six of the seven justices overturned Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez’s decision that disqualified part of CityCenter’s legal team, leaving the case in limbo. The justices said the lawyers, who had been involved in another lawsuit against Perini, could also represent CityCenter. Justice Kris Pickering recused herself from the case.

With the case now able to proceed, Gonzalez will determine whether MGM Resorts can proceed with its plan to implode the building — and who must pay.

The lawsuit covers the Harmon tower, which was never completed after construction defect issues surfaced in 2008 as it was being built as part of the $8.5 billion CityCenter development.

The blue-glass tower, which sits along the Strip, has been labeled structurally unsound by an engineering firm and could collapse in a large earthquake. But Perini officials think the tower can be repaired.

MGM Resorts and Dubai World, which own CityCenter, and Perini, the project’s general contractor, have traded charges and countercharges over responsibility for the Harmon, originally planned as a 47-story luxury nongaming hotel and condominium tower.

The developers blamed shoddy construction for the tower’s troubles, which caused MGM Resorts to halt construction of the Harmon at 27 floors and eliminate the 200 condominiums planned for the project.

Perini officials allege design flaws by the developers led to the Harmon’s troubles.

Building inspectors found structural work on the Harmon did not match plans submitted to Clark County. The construction issues involved improperly placed steel reinforcing bar, commonly known as rebar.

CityCenter, which includes the Aria, the nongaming Vdara and Mandarin Oriental, the all-residential Veer Towers and the Crystals mall, opened in December 2009. But the Harmon was never finished.

The lawsuit was originally filed in Clark County District Court by Perini in 2010. Perini also placed mechanics’ liens on CityCenter. MGM Resorts officials said the company settled claims with all but seven of the 220 first-tier subcontractors that weren’t paid once Perini and CityCenter became involved in the legal skirmish.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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