Last Modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 8:45 PM
State district court Judge Wilford Carter on Wednesday ruled in favor of Lake Charles Stevedores, granting the company $5.56 million in liquidated damages from the Port of Lake Charles.
Attorneys for the port and Lake Charles Stevedores presented their case in a four-hour hearing in 14th Judicial District Court.
Attorneys for Tom Flanagan, owner of Lake Charles Stevedores, alleged the port misappropriated public funds by paying the prior owners, Cooper T. Smith and Cavalair, $1.3 million.
The lawsuit was filed in March as a result of the termination of their contract in 2011, when the stevedores had a long-term contract for the unloading services at the City Docks.
Flanagan bought the contract a few years before, and the port decided to cancel it.
“I find that there was in the record by the port allegations that Lake Charles Stevedores, while Mr. Flanagan owned it, did not do everything he should have done,” Carter said.
Carter said that if the port did have cause they waived that right because they didn’t mention it in the letter of termination — thus, they owed the Stevedores the liquidated damages for canceling the contract.
“The port chose as a business decision to get out of this contract, and there are consequences to getting out of a contract,” Carter said.
Tom Filo, attorney for the stevedores, said he was pleased with Carter’s decision, but that it only resolved one part of the case. “We still have other aspects of the case to go forward in trial,” Filo said after the hearing.
He said the defendants have caused Flanagan damages under the Louisiana Racketeering Act for misappropriation of funds. Attorneys for the port say the cancellation of the contract had cause, so the port should not pay liquidated damages.
Ben Slater, outside counsel for the port, said Flanagan has a poor safety record and was a “bad operator” at the port. He said the port acted appropriately in ending its contract with Flanagan.
Attorneys for Cooper and Cavalier were also present and made their case for why they had rights to the liquidated damages.
“We’re certainly disappointed that Judge Carter ruled the way he did, but we’re glad he gave us 3 1/2 to four hours to tell our side of the story,” Louis Colletta, attorney for the port, said after the hearing.
“What he came up with was a ruling that was against the port but is a temporary ruling. It’s interlocutory in nature, and we fully intend to appeal that to a higher court. And when we do we fully expect to win.”
Colletta added that it’s a complicated case and addresses multiple contracts over a 50-year period.
“Not only do we believe this decision was made hastily and erroneously, but it will send a chilling message to anyone planning investment in conjunction with our port and in south Louisiana,” Colletta said in a news release.
“They don’t care that their reckless actions and lawsuits send anti-business messages throughout our communities in Southwest Louisiana.”
Posted By: Henry Torres firstname.lastname@example.org On: 10/27/2013
This stevedore Tom Flanagan is a CROOK he's lost work every were he has work