Hilton sues
tower builders

It claims building flaws let mold
proliferate and caused the closure
of part of Waikiki's largest hotel

By Tim Ruel

Hilton Hawaiian Village and its parent company are suing more than a dozen local and mainland construction and design companies over the mold infestation that led to the year-long closure of the resort's $95 million Kalia Tower.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in state Circuit Court, marks the first major legal maneuver surrounding the $56 million mold infestation at Hilton, Waikiki's largest hotel.

Hilton shuttered the 24-story Kalia Tower to guests last July, and does not expect to reopen it until sometime between July and September, the company has said.

The lawsuit is specifically related to mold found at the Kalia Tower, although Hilton also has removed some mold found at its time-share Lagoon Tower.

The closure of the Kalia Tower has been a dramatic event, resulting in the movement of guests, helicopter airlifts of equipment and union accusations of unsafe working conditions as the hotel has attempted to fix a guest tower that was newly opened in May 2001.

The eight-count lawsuit goes after the firms involved in the planning and design of the tower as well as its construction. The design companies being sued are architects Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo Inc.; engineering consultants Notkin Hawaii Inc., Ferris & Hamig Hawaii Inc. and Douglas V. MacMahon Inc.; and consultant Frank Lum.

The construction-related companies that were sued are Group Builders Inc., Air Balance Hawaii Inc., Dorvin D. Leis Co., Rolf Jensen & Associates Inc., Dryvit Systems Inc., Brewer Environmental Industries LLC, Special Inspection Consultants Inc., Caulking Hawaii Inc., International Environmental Corp., the Erection Co., A-1 A-Lectricians Inc., Kawneer Co. and Kevin Y.F. Chong.

Hilton said it plans to seek action against the tower's general contractor, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., but the hotel must seek separate approval to do so because of the bankruptcy of the firm's former owner, Dillingham Construction.

The lawsuit says that after closing the 453-room Kalia Tower, Hilton found several design and construction defects that were "substantial factors" that led to the proliferation of mold. The tower, as designed, basically acted as a giant vacuum that sucked in humid outside air because of low internal pressure.

Other defects include:

>> An improper building mechanical system and building envelop that resulted in no control over the tower's humidity.

>> Failure to seal the building against outside air.

>> An exterior wall finish that did not serve as a good barrier against moisture. The finishing system and sealant were not designed or installed according to industry standards and manufacturers' guidelines.

>> Lanai doors that leaked outside air into rooms.

Hilton is suing all defendants for breach of contract, negligence, breach of good faith and fair dealing, as well as other counts. Some of the firms are being sued for unjust enrichment, negligent design and manufacturing, and for sale of defective products.

Hilton is seeking general, special and consequential damages in an amount to be determined.

A hotel spokesman declined comment yesterday.

The Kalia Tower is one of six towers at Hilton Hawaiian Village, which is owned by Hilton Hotels Corp., of Beverly Hills, Calif.

Hilton is converting guest rooms on six floors at the Kalia Tower to time-share units because of strong demand for time-share, the company has said.


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