RIDOT lawyers' mistake might cost taxpayers $4M, according to court documents

Lawyers for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation lost a case simply by missing a deadline to file paper work, NBC 10 News confirmed Wednesday, June 6, 2018. (WJAR)

Lawyers for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation lost a case simply by missing a deadline to file paper work, NBC 10 News confirmed Wednesday.

The case never went to trial, so the contractor, who sued for $4 million, won the judgement in April.

Court documents that Manafort Brothers is seeking four million dollars in damages for extra work it had to do on the Route 95 project known as the Providence Viaduct. They're also alleging breach of contract.

The documents note that a Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of Manafort after DOT missed a 30-day period to respond to the claims.

“I am aware that an attorney at DOT inadvertently missed a procedural deadline in a long-standing law suit against the agency,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti noted in a statement to NBC 10. “The employee was verbally reprimanded at the time, and this employee has also been receiving additional supervision. While missed deadlines are not acceptable, the department remains on track to file its appeal in a timely fashion.”

The news is on the heels of the resignation of a state lawyer for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services Gregory Hazian, who has been accused of missing a deadline to file an appeal in a $24 million lawsuit with nursing homes.

The debacle has raised questions about state government lawyers, with news of a second unqualified attorney at EOHHS, as well as one at the Education Department who never took the Rhode Island bar.

“Everyone I've talked to says, ‘I have had enough.’ And I certainly have, as well,” Rep. Bob Lancia, a Republican who represents District 16 in Cranston, said. “Let’s talk about our ongoing cases, let's talk about what's in the hopper and are we missing anything?”

Lancia said a closer look should be taken.

“We're allowing these agencies to operate independently and I think there needs to be more oversight,” Lancia said.

A judge has scheduled a “damages only” trial in November to determine how much money Manafort will get.

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