Michigan Sues Company Over Mackinac Bridge Paint Job

Big Mac got a bad paint job.

That's the allegation in a $1 million lawsuit filed by the state agency that runs the Mackinac Bridge.

The lawsuit says Allstate Painting and Contracting left the project in 2006 without fixing the flaws, four years after it was awarded a contract to sandblast and paint steel posts and beams below the bridge deck.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority said it will have to do the work itself or hire another contractor. The lawsuit names Allstate Painting of Brunswick, Ohio, and an insurance company, American Motorists of Long Grove, Ill.

The insurer denies it's responsible for the extra costs. A phone number for Allstate Painting was not in service Wednesday. President Elias Kafantaris' phone was not answered.

The five-mile bridge opened in 1957, linking the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.

"The paint is critical to prevent rust, which would be catastrophic for the bridge," said Bill Gnodtke, chairman of the bridge agency's board. "It's very specialized work. You're working 200 feet above the lake."

The head of the agency, Bob Sweeney, declined to answer questions about the lawsuit or problems with Allstate Painting.

"The bridge is in great condition. It is very well-maintained," he said this week. "It's like a house — painting the house is part of any preservation program."

The lawsuit was filed in November in Mackinac County Circuit Court but was moved to federal court in Grand Rapids. A judge has been asked to decide which court is appropriate.

Lawsuits elsewhere suggest financial problems at Allstate Painting. In 2007, a federal judge in the District of Columbia entered a default judgment, saying the company owed $428,000 to a union pension fund.