Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. v. City of Columbia

In April 2003, the City of Columbia entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. (S&W) and several other parties, to develop a publicly-funded hotel adjacent to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. As architect, S&W was to complete sufficient preliminary design work to determine a guaranteed maximum price for the project, which would be used by the City to obtain municipal bond funding to cover the cost of the hotel. Pursuant to the MOU, the construction company was to pay S&W directly. On June 26, 2003, the City received a letter stating S&W would complete its preliminary design on July 10, 2003, and would then stop working until the bond financing for the hotel was finalized. Realizing this could delay the start of construction, S&W offered to continue working the remaining ninety days until the anticipated bond closing date of October 13, 2003, but required assurance it would be compensated for the work it performed during this time frame. It provided an estimate requiring $650,000 and $75,000 per week after that. On July 30, the City approved "$650,000 for interim architectural design services for a period of 90 days prior to bond closing." The bond closing did not occur as scheduled, but S&W nevertheless continued to work. S&W submitted an invoice to the City for $697,084.79 for work that took place from July 10 to December 15, 2003. By letter dated December 17, 2003, S&W informed the construction company that the City had voted that day "to advance [$705,000.000] to the design team for design services and expenses. Because under the MOU the construction company was to pay S&W, not the City, the construction company agreed to reimburse the City for the funds paid to S&W after the bond closing. The City paid S&W's invoice. S&W continued to work on the project, but in March 2004, the City abandoned its plans under the MOU and ended its relationship with S&W. S&W received no further compensation and sued the City for breach of contract under the MOU and the July 2003 agreement. The City argued there was no separate agreement and the payment of interim fees was merely an advance on fees under the MOU and furthermore, the MOU provided that S&W was to be paid by the construction company, not the City. The trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of S&W, finding a contract existed between it and the City. On certiorari, the City conceded a contract exists, but argued the contract terms have been satisfied. The Supreme Court found the City's arguments were unpreserved and affirmed as modified. View "Stevens & Wilkinson of South Carolina, Inc. v. City of Columbia" on Justia Law