119th District Judge Ben Woodward did not make a ruling after a summary judgment hearing Wednesday regarding a $2.7 million lawsuit between the city of San Angelo and Martifer-Hirschfeld.
The lawsuit stems from a dispute between the City of San Angelo Development Corp., the city and Martifer-Hirschfeld Energy Systems, LLC and co-defendants Hirschfeld Wind Energy Solutions I and II over a failed multimillion-dollar project to bring a wind turbine tower fabrication plant to town.
Attorneys from both parties made arguments and rebuttals in Woodward’s courtroom during Wednesday’s hearing, which lasted about 90 minutes.
COSADC and the city are seeking to recoup more than $2.7 million in damages, attorneys’ fees and minor costs as a result of the failed investment.
Attorney Todd Joseph Harlow said COSADC and the city advanced about $2.6 million in taxpayer dollars to Martifer-Hirschfeld as part of the venture.
He said Martifer-Hirschfeld breached its contract in 2013, failing to complete the facility by the deadline. Martifer-Hirschfeld also failed to maintain the contracted number of full-time positions through the years, he said, which cost the city about $540,000 in grants given to the company as part of the agreement. Harlow added that Martifer-Hirschfeld is obligated under the contract to pay back 100 percent of the money it received from COSADC and the city.
“All the city is asking for is its money back,” he said.
Jeffrey S. Lisson, defense attorney, argued that “Hirschfeld was faced with a choice,” which was to back out of the project and let the facility go bankrupt, allowing all investors to lose their money, or convert the plant from making wind turbines to other products.
He said Martifer-Hirschfeld kept COSADC and city officials informed of the changes and that they agreed to it, which was why Martifer-Hirschfeld continued with the project and invested $27 million into converting the plant. Lisson argued that COSADC and the city actions were inequitable for Martifer-Hirschfeld, which does not change the contract but does not allow for summary judgment, he said.
The arguments both attorneys presented as well as the wordings in the contracts are left to Woodward to define and decide.
Woodward should make a ruling before May 16, when the case is scheduled to go to trial if Woodward does not rule in the city and COSADC’s favor.
Woodward adjourned the hearing by saying, “Thank you all very much. I’ll be in touch.”
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