Andrea Dearden Sep. 8, 2014, 10:55am

A Jefferson County company is accusing International Paper of fraud and slander. 

Signature Associates, Signature Special Services and Signature Industrial Services of Beaumont filed a complaint against Tennessee-based International Paper Co., Greg Bennett and Alliance Engineers & Project Consultants of Beaumont on Aug. 8 in Jefferson County District Court.  According to the complaint, Signature was approached by International Paper and Alliance Engineers representatives in January or February and asked to bid on work to a machine known as "the Slaker". International Paper allegedly asked that the work be started even before the bid process was complete. Signature says it was assured it would be fully compensated for all work on the project, according to the suit. 

Signature says International Paper promised a speedy bid and contracting process but, instead, took a week longer than expected and failed to include more than $78,000 worth of initial costs in the agreement. Two weeks into the job, Signature claims it warned International Paper that the project was going to quickly surpass the bid amount. The company says International Paper acknowledged the increased costs and agreed for the work to continue, according to court papers.. 

Signature says International Paper failed to provide drawings and materials necessary to complete the project, causing additional delays. According to the lawsuit, International Paper and its representatives were "admittedly overwhelmed with the enormity of the project and the obstacles."

By April, Signature says Bennett had been assigned by International Paper to work directly with the Slaker project. Bennett allegedly told Signature to continue any necessary work and submit all change orders after the project was completed rather than alert the company to budget overages while the work was under way.

In addition to problems with project costs, Signature says it raised concerns with International Paper about allegedly lax safety standards and negligence that the company says allowed caustic chemicals to spill into the work site. Signature says the chemicals caused significant damage to its property. 

Signature also alleges Bennett publicly made a number of "slanderous and disparaging statements" accusing the company of "stealing from the mill", "lying from their bill" and "inflating invoices."

At the completion of the project, Signature says International Paper alleged the scope of work "was not substantially complete" and allegedly refused to compensate Signature as initially agreed upon. 

Signature accuses the defendants of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, slander and business disparagement and breach of contract. It asks to be awarded more than $1 million in damages along with court costs and attorney fees.

Attorneys Glen W. Morgan and John Werner of Reaud, Morgan & Quinn in Beaumont represent Signature. They seek a jury trial.
The case number is Jefferson County District Court case E-195964. 

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at Jefferson County District Court. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt and it represents only one side of the story.

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