Syracuse University is suing its own law firm alleging it was misrepresented in a failed contract with a developer to construct a $20 million fitness center and bookstore on campus.
The malpractice suit is against Bond, Schoeneck & King, the largest law firm in Syracuse, New York, who has long represented the university, according to a Syracuse.com report.
The university is claiming the law firm failed to include a key liability clause in a contract with contractor Cameron Hill Construction. The university broke off this contract in 2014, citing lack of financing and construction delays on the part of Cameron Hill, according to Inside Higher Ed. Cameron Hill subsequently sued the university for breach of contract.
The abandoned 85,000-square-foot multi-use complex would have occupied a parcel of university-owned land at the corner of University Avenue and East Adams Street.
By failing to insert a routine “time is of the essence” clause in the original development contract, Bond, Schoeneck & King “violated ethical rules, professional standards and fiduciary duties,” university representatives alleged, according to Syracuse.com.
The university’s case hinges upon this argument, as the clause would have given Syracuse leverage over Cameron Hill in the event the contractor was responsible for project delays. This, Syracuse.com reports, would have given the university legal grounds to exit the contract without ramifications.
Cameron Hill was granted a 30-year tax exemption in 2012 to carry out the project. The developer was to have paid the city of Syracuse $64,400 a year for 30 years, while the university would have leased its land to Cameron Hill for $1 a year, CNY Central reported.
After the contract was terminated, Syracuse.com reported that Cameron Hill alleged it incurred $3 million in project costs, and that the loss of the project could threaten the contractor’s ability to remain in business.
In 2014, Syracuse spokesperson Kevin Quinn told Club Industry the university remained in "urgent need" of improvements to its existing bookstore and fitness facilities.
"We are resetting the process, with our top priority right now talking with students about these needs and what they would like to see," he said.