Court affirms exception of prescription, reverses defendant's claims in ExPert Riser Solutions case

By Gabriel Neves | Jan 31, 2019

Crane   Pexels

BATON ROUGE -- The makers of a crane who presented a series of defects that caused an oil company to seek legal action has obtained a victory in the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.

State Judge Page McClendon issued an 11-page ruling on Dec. 28 reversing claims and affirming portions of the St. Tammany Parish 22nd District Court's decision in the lawsuit filed by ExPert Riser Solutions LLC against Techcrane International LLC.

The court confirmed an exception of prescription, which considered that ExPert causes of action under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) were prescribed, as ExPert was aware of the problems in the crane one year before the lawsuit.

ExPert sued Techcrane, alleging the company delivered a crane with defects; claiming it breached contract, as well as committed redhibition; and provided negligent misrepresentation, fraud/fraudulent inducement, breach of express warranties, tort negligence, and violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act.

As stated in the ruling, "in December 2012, ExPert entered a contract with Weatherford wherein ExPert agreed to provide dockside facilities and services to Weatherford at ExPert's facility in Port Fourchon," choosing to have a crane built.

As it did not have a crane already built that would bear the workload, per the ruling, "ExPert solicited bids from several crane manufacturers, including the defendant, Techcrane International LLC, to have a new crane constructed."

Both parties signed an agreement on March 2012, with the assembly works starting in April 2013.

Right after the installation, the plaintiff started noticing some problems with the crane, such as noises in the gears and twisted bridles. After repairs, including reduction in lifting capacity due to issues on the base of the equipment, the problems still persisted for years.

"In October 2016, ExPert retained Oil States Skagit Smatco LLC to perform an inspection and engineering study on the crane to determine whether it was defective," the ruling said. "Oil States concluded that the crane was constructed improperly and was unfit for service. Among other things, Oil States identified the roller bearing as the cause of the crane's on-going rotation problems, not 'seating' of the rotating gears, and observed signs of defective or damaged welds, some of which were determined to be structural cracks. After the cracks and welds were repaired, the crane was placed back into service, but its capacity was downgraded to light duty operations. Oil States further advised that the crane's rotating bearing needed to be repaired before the crane could be used reliably. However, in lieu of spending $1 million to fix the rotating bearing, ExPert elected to replace the crane in October 2016."

ExPert then sued Techcrane, which responded to the complaint with two exceptions that raised the issues of no cause of action and prescription.

In her ruling, McClendon recognized that ExPert knew of the crane's defects before the lawsuit was filed, stating "ExPert had previously admitted in its petition that following the failed attempt to increase the crane's lifting capacity it was aware that the crane was incapable of meeting its operational requirement (100-ton lifting capacity) and did not satisfy the terms of its agreement with Techcrane," adding that "ExPert had actual knowledge of these facts in 2013, more than one year before it filed suit against Techcrane."

The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal Case No. is 2018 CA 0612.

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