Manager sues after learning pipe service company had no equipment

Marilyn Tennissen Oct. 9, 2008, 9:21am

James John Briggs claims he was offered a job as operations manager of a pipe services company only to discover the company did not have any of the equipment needed to do the job.

When the company later fired him, he sued the owners for fraud and breach of contract.

Briggs filed suit against Deo Van Wijk, Brigitt Van Wijk and Pipe Services International LLP on Oct. 7 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the complaint, Briggs was a pipe designer for Flour/TRS when he was approached Deo Van Wijk about accepting a position with Pipe Services. During his recruitment, Briggs claims Van Wijk offered him a position that would give him "full control over the business of Pipe Services," the complaint states.

Briggs claims Van Wijk also offered him an "ownership percentage within one year of joining Pipe Services."

Because of the terms and other representations made by Van Wijk, Briggs claims he resigned his position with Fluor/TRS and entered into an employment contract as operations manager for Pipe Services International at their Nederland office on June 1, 2007.

According to the complaint, when Briggs began his job at Pipe Services, he discovered that most of the equipment necessary to perform his duties were no longer in possession of the company, "because the previous management group had embezzled Pipe Services' equipment." Briggs claims Van Wijk never disclosed to him that the equipment had been embezzled.

When he informed Van Wijk, the defendant asked Briggs to try to repossess the equipment from the previous management group, or purchase other equipment.

"For several months, plaintiff took steps to acquire the necessary equipment but was unable to secure any equipment due to defendants Deo Van Wijk and Birgitt Van Wijk's interference and failure to provide the necessary financial resources," the complaint alleges.

After many months of not resolving the equipment issues, the defendants terminated Briggs on Dec. 17, 2007, "in blatant violation of their representations" and in breach of the employment contract.

Briggs' allegations against the defendants include breach of contract, fraud, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation and promissory estoppel. He is seeking actual, consequential and punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees, costs, interest and other relief.

Guy Fisher of Provost Umphrey Law Firm LLP in Beaumont is representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield of the 136th District Court.

Case No. D182-507

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