Defendants seek to transfer slander suit being handled RMQ law firm

By David Yates | Nov 19, 2014

A pair of out-of-county defendants are seeking to transfer a fraud and slander suit filed locally through one of Beaumont’s most well-known law firms, Reaud, Morgan & Quinn.

As previously reported, 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.

Court records show that on Sept. 9 International Paper and Bennett filed a motion to transfer venue, arguing none of the alleged events giving rise to the plaintiffs’ claim occurred in Jefferson County.

No ruling either granting or denying the motion is on file as of Nov. 19.

The lawsuit alleges 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.

In its suit, Signature says International Paper failed to provide drawings and materials necessary to complete the project, causing additional delays. 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.

Furthermore, Signature also alleges Bennett publicly made a number of “slanderous and disparaging statements” accusing the company of stealing from the mill 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.

In their motion to transfer venue, International Paper and Bennett contend that venue is proper in Orange County – the location of the plant where goods and services where rendered and delivered.

Signature accuses the defendants of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, slander and business disparagement and breach of contract and seeks an award more than $1 million in damages along with court costs and attorney fees.

RMQ attorneys Glen W. Morgan and John Werner represent Signature.

International Paper and Bennett are represented by attorney Blair Bisbey of the Jasper law firm Seale, Stover & Bisbey.

Case No. E-195-964

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