A local furniture company says an interior designer has refused to pay for more than $100,000 worth of merchandise.

Howell Furniture Company Ltd. claims Melinda James & Co., an interior design business, received furniture and other items from Howell's and then sold them to customers without paying Howell's.

Howell's filed a breach of contract suit against Melinda James & Co., Melinda James and John James on June 19 in Jefferson County District Court.

"In June, July, August and possibly other months during 2006, defendants engaged in a course of conduct whereby plaintiff's merchandise held for resale was acquired by defendants from plaintiff and thereafter sold and delivered by defendants to customers of defendant without the merchandise being entered as a credit or sales transaction," the plaintiff's original petition states.

The suit says that John James, who had been a former Howell's employee, did not record transactions until December or later.
"Defendants received payments from its customers for the merchandise they acquired from plaintiff and failed and refused to pay plaintiff for such merchandise," the plaintiff claims.

The petition states that Howell's does not have an exact accounting of the amount the James' owe, but "estimates it to be in the range of $140,000."

Howell's charges the plaintiffs with breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith, fraud by nondisclosure, common law fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of duty of loyalty.

The furniture company seeks actual and exemplary damages, attorney fees and court costs.

Walter Snider of Snider & Byrd LLP of Beaumont is representing the plaintiff.

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

Case No. D179-530

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