Sunday, October 15, 2006

Omaha distributor of heating and air conditioning equipment loses $3.3 million verdict in dispute with Houston A federal jury in Houston has ordered an Omaha company and its Kansas City, Kan., affiliate to pay $3.3 million to a heating and air conditioning equipment manufacturer. Asha Distributing Co. of Omaha and Asha Distributing of K.C. Inc., both owned by Trace Smith of Omaha, lost the verdict to Goodman Manufacturing Co. of Houston. Asha has filed for a new trial, to set aside the verdict or to reduce the verdict. Goodman alleged it had dealt with Asha since 1999 under agreements that allowed it to ship its heating and air conditioning units to warehouses based on Asha's estimated sales. The warehouses stored the units until Asha sold them to customers, and Asha could return unsold units according to specific rules, according to the lawsuit.Disputes between the two companies over the delivery and payment for the units began in 2000 and 2001. The details involve a complex system of receiving, selling and shipping the units, some of which had been owned by another distributor.Goodman's lawsuit said Asha overforecast sales of some of the units but accepted delivery anyway. Asha later tried to reject some of the equipment, but Goodman argued that the rejection was late and for improper reasons, such as units being an incorrect color.Goodman also alleged that Asha sold some equipment but didn't pay Goodman for it. Goodman terminated Asha as a distributor on March 21, 2005, and the two companies could not agree whether Asha should pay for the units that were in storage at the time.In reply, Asha argued that it had complied with its business arrangements with Goodman but that Goodman didn't deliver some units in a timely and accurate manner. Asha said it repeatedly informed Goodman about misshipments and rejected units that were obsolete, damaged or otherwise "non-saleable."Asha also said Goodman shipped units that Asha hadn't ordered, incorrectly counted some units as belonging to Asha and double-billed for some shipments.Goodman said it was owed more than $4 million. Asha asked the court for $924,000 in damages. The jury awarded Goodman $3,587,989 and Asha $288,888, requiring a net payment by Asha to Goodman of $3,299,101, plus 4.97 percent annual interest until the amount is paid.Attorneys for Goodman also requested $550,000 in fees.In asking for a new trial, attorneys for Asha argued, among other things, that in some parts of the dispute the jury awarded more than Goodman had requested and that the jurors ignored payments Goodman had received from Asha.

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