February 8, 2021 at 4:28 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Us Helping Us hit with $3.8 million breach of contract lawsuit
Us Helping Us, gay news, Washington Blade
Us Helping Us, People Into Living is strongly contesting a $3.8 million breach of contract lawsuit filed against it by a contracting company. (Washington Blade file photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Attorneys representing the D.C.-based LGBTQ health and HIV services organization Us Helping Us, People Into Living filed a response in D.C. Superior Court on Feb. 1 strongly contesting a $3.8 million breach of contract lawsuit filed against it by a contracting company that renovated the group’s headquarters building at 3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.

The Kier Company, which provides interior design and general contracting work for commercial and residential buildings, charges in its lawsuit filed last November that Us Helping Us violated the terms of its contract for the renovation work by failing to pay the remaining balance of $101,002 out of a total cost of $320,233.75 for the work.

Us Helping Us states in its response to the lawsuit that it withheld the final payment because the Kier Company failed to complete the renovation work specified in the original contract and subsequent change orders calling for additional work.

“In addition, some of the work provided was of poor quality, requiring remedial construction service,” the Us Helping Us response to the lawsuit says.

In a counterclaim accompanying its response, Us Helping Us calls on the court to order the Kier Company to pay $37,400 in compensatory and actual damages for the costs Us Helping Us incurred to retain another contractor to complete the work it says the Kier Company did not complete.

In its lawsuit, the Kier Company accuses Us Helping Us of multiple violations of various provisions in the contract it signed with the company for the renovation work. Among them, the lawsuit says, is an alleged failure by Us Helping Us to remove office furniture from the building during the renovation work and the presence of Us Helping Us employees working in the building at the time of the renovation. The lawsuit says the Us Helping Us employees caused “interference” in the work and delays and extra working hours for the construction workers.

According to the lawsuit, the alleged interference amounted to “weekend” and “overtime” fees totaling $3,366,000 over and above the original stated cost of $320,233.75 for the entire project. That and other costs the Kier Company holds Us Helping Us responsible for, including late fees for the period from September 2019, when the company says the final payment for the work was due, through the time the lawsuit was filed in November 2020, brings the total amount Us Helping Us owes the Kier Company to $3,856,952.50, the lawsuit alleges.

The total revenue received by Us Helping Us, a nonprofit group, for its fiscal year 2020 budget is estimated to be $3.2 million.

In its response to the lawsuit, Us Helping Us says its executive director, DeMarc Hickson, attempted to contact the company about completing the work that Us Helping Us claims the company did not finish. The company did not respond to that request after it initially asserted it had completed the work, the Us Helping Us response to the lawsuit says. It says the company agreed to perform its construction work while Us Helping Us employees worked in areas of the building when and where renovation work was not taking place. 

By failing to complete the work the Kier Company “committed the first material breach of the parties’ agreement, thereby excusing Defendant from any obligations,” the Us Helping Us response to the lawsuit says.

“Any harm suffered by Plaintiff arose out of its own non-performance of the essential obligations of the parties’ agreement, and by its own actions or omissions that adversely and substantially affected the interest of Defendant,” the response states.

The online court docket for the case shows that a scheduling conference was slated for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 12 to plan the next actions by the two parties. Under longstanding D.C. Superior Court rules, the two parties will be required to enter conciliation negotiations supervised by a judge to determine whether a settlement in the case can be reached before the case will be scheduled for a trial.

An attorney representing the Kier Company did not immediately respond to a request by the Washington Blade for comment. 

“It is disappointing that The Kier Company is suing us for the precious and life-saving resources that Us Helping Us provides to the community,” Us Helping Us said in a statement released by A. Cornelius Baker, the chair of the Us Helping Us board. “We are confident that our legal team will help us resolve this matter,” the statement says.

“The mission of Us Helping Us, People Into Living, Inc. is to improve the health and wellbeing of Black gay men through innovative programs and services, and through a vision of inclusiveness to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in the entire Black community,” a statement on the Us Helping Us website says.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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