HOUSTON - A former Houston Astros pitcher and his business partner claim they are being oppressed as minority shareholders of a local company and have initiated legal action.

In a lawsuit filed July 9 in Galveston County District Court, Brandon Backe and Danny Higgins accuse James Rickey Plair, RP Consulting LLC and JRP Consulting Ltd. of actions detrimental to their combined 12.5 per cent stake in Alltec Lifting Systems LLC.

Alltec, which is a derivative plaintiff in the litigation, was formed with principal offices in Dickinson in 2006.

Backe and Higgins each own 6.25 per cent of Alltec while Plair owns about 36 per cent, the suit shows.

They explain their shares were a result of their consent to obtaining $200,000 in third-party loans to fund Alltec by signing a two-year interest-only balloon note for approximately $200,000 and putting up a $100,000 certificate of deposit and a $150,000 piece of real estate as collateral.

They assert Plair promised that "Alltec would make all monthly interest payments on the note, repay the loan in full at the end of two years and obtain a release of the collateral back to" them.

According to the original petition, Alltec made the monthly interest payments on the note pursuant to the parties' agreement, but the complainants did not receive any distributions.

Plair, as company president, apparently refused to pay the aforementioned loan in full when the two-year mark approached in 2008 on grounds there was a lack of funds, it states.

Instead, Plair convinced the plaintiffs to exend the loan and tie up their collateral for another years.

The new due date in 2010 arrived only for Plair to again refuse remitting full payment, but rather, demand more funds be contributed to the venture "without any additional consideration."

Court papers further accuse Plair of misusing his position and shutting Backe and Higgins out of control of the business, recalling an instance which he allocated "substanial" amounts of money to RP Consulting and JRP Consulting without disclosing the transaction to them.

Alltec is purportedly being shopped around, the suit argues, and Plair demanded at a shareholder meeting last month that members agree to sell their interests "without providing every little detail regarding the terms of the buyout or the basis for the valuation of Alltec or the individual member interests."

Around the same time as the meeting, Plair stepped down as president to which the complainants say "is no more than a veiled attempt to force [them] to agree to the terms of a sale" they have little or no knowledge of.

The suit adds that Plair "has continued to exercise control over the company in ways detrimental to Alltec and to the plaintiffs" despite his resignation in question.

Consequently, Backe and Higgins seek about $800,000 in damages and a jury trial.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Andrew K. Meade of Hawash Meade Gaston Neese & Cicack LLP and Brad T. Wyly of Wyly & Cook, LLP, both in Houston.

Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox is presiding over the case.

Case No. 13-CV-886

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