Turf battles….

The most interesting part of the court’s decision in Pleasant Grove ISD v. Fieldturf USA, Inc. was the disclosure of the internal conflicts within the turf company between the sales team and the management. It reminded me of college and law school days when I worked in the summer for Bekins Moving Co. in Houston.  Most of the time I worked as a packer. We’d get to the house the day before the movers and pack up all of the books, pots and pans, dishes, the good china, the toys in the kids’ room and everything else.  It was a good summer job: $3.15 an hour, with plenty of overtime!

One of the problems we ran into occasionally was the over promising that the Bekins sales team did.  Whatever they had to say to get the job, they would say it.  So we encountered customers who were disappointed to learn that no, we would not watch the baby while the mom ran some errands.  The salesman told you we would do that?  Oh…I’m sorry. He must have misunderstood. Would we clean the kitchen drawers after we got all of the silverware out of them and into boxes? No, ma’am, I’m afraid that’s not one of the services we provide. We pack the utensils. The broken rubber bands, used toothpicks and dead roaches we leave behind.  The salesman said we would clean the drawers?   Oh my….those sales guys!

Apparently the same thing was going on at FieldturfUSA.  In connection with a lawsuit filed by Pleasant Grove ISD over its football field, some internal emails from FieldTurf execs surfaced.   Like this:

As you know our sales and marketing continually make claims that we can’t possibly meet in the real world.  This opens us up to tons of exposure from a legal standpoint….On the marketing side….the claims made regarding the [fiber comprising the turf product] are ridiculous.  Everyday we are putting stuff out there that can’t and won’t live up to the marketing spin.  We have to control this somehow!!

This turf battle ended up in litigation involving the district, its general contractor and a couple of the subcontractors.  The defendants whittled down many of the claims, but the case did produce a jury verdict in favor of the district for $175,000 based on a breach of warranty by FieldTurf.  Both the district and FieldTurf appealed to the Court of Appeals which recently issued a lengthy and very complex opinion and remanded the whole enchilada back to the trial court.

So it goes on. The appellate court’s opinion tells us more about the rules of legal procedure than anything else. But let’s take this away from it: The legal verbiage surrounding a school construction project is dense, complicated, and critically important.  Moreover, the legal issues when public funding is involved are different from the issues in a private construction project. The lawyers in our firm are among those who are well equipped to help you navigate this maze.

The case was decided on April 3, 2020 by the Court of Appeals for the 6th District, in Texarkana.