Orangefield ISD wins appeal in suit over hurricane repair bills

Steve Korris Mar. 30, 2011, 7:47am


Orangefield school trustees don't have to pay all the bills that contractor ICI Construction submitted for Hurricane Rita repairs, Ninth District appeals judges ruled on March 24.

They affirmed Orange County District Judge Buddie Hahn, who granted the trustees immunity against ICI's claim for $278,096.

The judges scrutinized 16 documents that ICI submitted as the equivalent of a contract, but they couldn't find the essential elements of a contract.

Justice Hollis Horton wrote, "A determination of which properties Orangefield Independent School District agreed to repair requires evidence that is not contained in the documents before us."

He wrote that the documents "fail to make the obligations of the parties sufficiently definite to enable a court to understand the parties' obligations."

The trustees held a special session after Rita, to hear damage reports from Joe Roye of their staff and Jeff Tipton of ICI.

The trustees unanimously voted to waive competitive bidding and get started.

ICI performed repairs, and the trustees paid more than $1 million. But ICI sued for more, arguing that the trustees didn't qualify for immunity as a government body because they breached a contract.

The trustees answered that they didn't sign a contract for the work that was the subject of the suit, and Hahn agreed.

So did Ninth District Chief Justice Steve McKeithen, Justice Charles Kreger, and Horton.

"First, the putative contract documents fail to reveal the basis of OISD's agreement to pay for hurricane related repairs," Horton wrote. "Additionally, ICI's putative contract documents fail to fully define the properties that OISD agreed to have repaired."

He wrote that ICI's estimates don't count as evidence that trustees agreed to have ICI repair those properties.

Richard Morris and Adam Courtin represented the school district.

Allison Snyder, Daniel Flatten, Timothy Ross and Larry Hunter represented ICI.

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