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Court Sorts Harmon Discovery Issues

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(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Las Vegas Morning News
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Las Vegas CBS KXNT — The Nevada Supreme Court will decide whether two separate bodies of evidence have been improperly discounted in the massive litigation surrounding the City Center’s Harmon Tower.

The Harmon has sat vacant on the Las Vegas Strip since questions were raised prior to completion about its structural integrity. Parent company MGM decided it should be demolished, and builder Tutor Perini Corp. maintained the problems could be repaired. At the Court on Tuesday, an attorney for City Center said experts on both sides now agree that the building should be demolished.

Tutor Perini has fought to preserve empty building as evidence in a lengthy and expensive construction defect suit currently “in the throes of discovery,” as Justice Nancy Saita put it on Tuesday.

City Center claimed District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez abused her discretion when she found a flaw in the methodology of a City Center expert who gathered samples at selected sites within the building. Attorney Mark Ferrario said Gonzales substituted her own judgment for the judgment of an engineer with 40 years’ experience. Instead, Ferrario said, Gonzales should have left it to a jury to decide whether weakness at given points in the construction can be extrapolated to draw conclusions about the whole structure.

In a separate hearing held back-to-back, Tutor Perini challenged the application of the work product doctrine to memos between City Center and its public relations firm. Attorney Jeff Sylvestri argued on behalf of Tutor Perini and several subcontractors that the documents were not related to legal strategy “in anticipation of litigation,” a standard from a string of cases hinging on a similar question, and therefore should not be privileged. Sylvestri asked the court to order all the documents to be produced.

City Center claimed the trial judge properly withheld 35 percent of the documents, and allowed 65 percent, after a lengthy review of the material.

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