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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


$1.4 million in damages to UA mirror lab mirror sparks lawsuit

University of Arizona Steward Observatory

The polishing process of a mirror for the Giant Magellan telescope.

The Arizona Board of Regents was scheduled to consider lending its name to an on-going lawsuit involving the University of Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab and Lithe Technologies, LLC. before adjourning to executive session, Friday, Feb. 9. It is unknown whether the topic was discussed.

The lawsuit, which concerns a Lithe employee damaging a telescope mirror being made for the University of Tokyo under a $15 million contract, allows the UA to continue recovering insurance from Lithe. 

According to the official board book, on March 11, 2015, a Lithe employee working on a 6.5-meter telescope mirror at mirror lab entered a faulty computer command for a piece of mechanical equipment that hovered over the mirror. 

The entry started a chain reaction that ended when a steel beam pierced the edge of the mirror, causing $1.4 million in damages to the mirror.

The Daily Wildcat has reached out to the mirror lab for more information on the incident. As of publication, they have not responded for comment. 

When the university’s state self-insurance reached its payout limit, the damages were covered entirely by UA excess-carrier insurance company, who began suing Lithe for the damages. 

Lithe sought dismissal of the excess carriers’ lawsuit because of how long it took to engineer a repair plan and determine the cost. Because of this, counsel for the excess carriers contacted UA counsel to request for the board to lend its name to the lawsuit as an inactive plaintiff to get around the issue. 

Board policy 1-109 specifies that only the board can sue and be sued, and that all litigation brought forth by Arizona’s public institutions must be carried out in the regent’s name. It also specifies that litigation brought forth in the regents’ name must be approved by the board before litigation begins. 

The board book specifies that while the board will not help recover any monetary damages, continuing the lawsuit in the board’s name will help continue recovery from Lithe and maintain relations with the excess carriers who “quickly and efficiently covered UA’s loss.”

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