Port of Port Arthur suing Flanagan for delinquent invoices

Marilyn Tennissen Oct. 9, 2007, 7:00am

The James J. Flanagan Shipping Corp., headquartered in Beaumont, is general contract stevedore that loads and unloads thousands of ships and handles millions of dollars worth of cargo every year all along the Gulf Coast at facilities from Brownsville to New Orleans. But now one of its oldest clients is taking Flanagan to court for around $14,000 in invoices.

The Port of Port Arthur Navigation District of Jefferson County claims Flanagan Shipping owes $14,320.20 for damage at the Port caused by Flanagan employees and equipment over the past three years.

The Port of Port Arthur filed suit against Flanagan for the delinquent invoices and is alleging the company is in breach of contract and negligent.

The Port lists seven incidents since 2004 in which Flanagan caused damage at the Port. In each case, the Port says it provided Flanagan with a Notice of Claim and an invoice concerning the incident, and alleges that Flanagan has "refused to pay for the damages it caused."

- Sept. 4, 2004, during the loading of the M/V Start Juventas, a forklift owned by Flanagan almost fell over while clamping a roll of linerboard, causing the arms of the forklift to chip the cement floor. The Port was forced to hire a contractor to repair the floor at a cost of $500.

- Jan. 8, 2005, while Flanagan was in the process of loading steel slabs onto rail cars, one of the rail cars tipped over and dropped three steel slabs on the dock of the Port. Port officials paid $750 for an inspection to determine if there was structural damage to the dock.

- April 23, 2005, while discharging cargo from the Star Gran, Flanagan damaged the dock timber located at Berth #4 of the Port. The repairs of the dock timbers cost the Port $4,480. Flanagan was provided with another Notice of Claim and an invoice concerning the incident, but the Port alleges that Flanagan again refused to pay for the damages its employee caused.

- Sept. 21, 2005, an employee of Flanagan, known as an ILA driver, drove a truck with an attached trailer onto the curb at the Port, in the process knocking down the entire south guard rail. The cost to replace the guard rail was $2,156.

- Dec. 7, 2005, during the discharge of cargo from the Star Atlantic, Flanagan damaged a section of the dock, timbers and supports. The cost to remove and replace the damaged timbers was $2,540.

- Feb. 9, 2006, during the discharge of the Star Fraser, Flanagan damaged the sprinkler system, housing assembly and support beam with a forklift. Repairs to the sprinkler cost the Port $702.

- March 1, 2006, while discharging steel from the M/V Jin Hai, an employee of Flanagan damaged the guardrail and/or timber while using a forklift to transport rail cars across the bridge. As a result, the Port sustained damages of $830.

The Port of Port Arthur claims that Flanagan is bound by the conditions of the Port's Tariff, to which every user of the Port's facilities must agree before being allowed to use the facilities.

The Port cites Rule 34, Subrule 31 of the Tariff, which provides that all users of the Port "shall indemnify and hold harmless the Port from and against claims, damages, losses and expenses, including but not limited to, damage to or loss of property and equipment of the Port, arising out of or resulting from or incident to the user's operations while on the Port's property or the use of the Port's facilities."

"As a result of the negligence of Flanagan … the Port has sustained actual damages totaling at least $14,350," the plaintiff's original petition states. "Additionally, Flanagan, by refusing to pay in response to the Port's prior demands, has also breached its duty to indemnify the Port, as contractually agreed pursuant to the terms and conditions in the Port's Tariffs."

On Aug. 2, Port officials sent a certified letter to Peter Goffery at James J. Flanagan Stevedores detailing the past due invoices and requested a response within 15 days to avoid legal action.

The Port is seeking to recover the actual damages, interest, attorney fees and court costs and other relief that it may be entitled to.

Scot Sheldon of Sheldon, Dunham & Edwardson LLP of Beaumont is representing the Port.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District.

Case No. E180-459

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