A Baton Rouge court has cleared the way for Allco, a Beaumont, Texas, roofing company, to move forward with its lawsuit against Aptim Environmental and Infrastructure over millions of dollars Allco says it is owed for work it did as an Aptim subcontractor on a hurricane recovery project.
Aptim was one of two contractors selected by the federal government to help rebuild some 18,000 homes in the U.S. Virgin Islands damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. According to court documents, it contracted with Allco in the fall of 2018 to do certain roof repairs on homes in St. John and St. Thomas.
But Aptim has failed to pay Allco under the terms of their contract, the lawsuit says, even though the federal government has already paid Aptim for most of the work. The suit alleges Aptim delayed work orders and intentionally withheld payments to maximize its profits on the job and also tried to renegotiate its payment terms with Allco, once work was already underway.
The suit notes that at one point Aptim agreed to pay Allco $10 million but never made the payment. Allco, in turn, has had to take out a loan to pay for materials and labor, the suit says.
Allco’s attorney Kerry Miller says the total amount his client is owed is actually more than $20 million.
Aptim had argued in a court filing earlier this fall that the suit was premature because Allco was subject to a mandatory arbitration clause in its contract. However, in a ruling issued this week, 19th Judicial District Court Judge Richard “Chip” Moore III said after reviewing the contract, it is clear the two companies “… agreed that arbitration was only one means by which disputes could be resolved between the parties. There was no language requiring arbitration and neither side consented to binding arbitration.”
Miller says the ruling is an important first step in the process for his client.
“This has been terribly hard on them,” he says. “They’ve had to finance some of this work, turn down other jobs.”
Aptim officials could not be reached for comment and their attorney was not at liberty to comment on the ruling, but the company is expected to appeal the ruling.
A hearing is set for Dec. 9 on a motion by Allco to hold Aptim liable for unfair trade practices.