Here’s the score: The Trumann School District sued Ace Signs of Arkansas LLC last year over allegations that the district paid more than $600,000 for a scoreboard that it says never worked through a single football season. And now Ace’s insurance carrier has jumped in the fray with a lawsuit of its own.
In 2018, the Trumann School District approved buying a football scoreboard and other equipment from Ace Signs of Little Rock for $336,000.
Trumann held a grand opening for its RMC Trumann Wildcat Stadium on Sept. 7, 2018, and while the board was working during the game, “the side panels stating ‘Trumann’ and ‘Wildcats’ as well as two sponsorship panels had not been delivered,” according to the lawsuit, filed in Poinsett County Circuit Court.
But then things got worse. Between November 2018 and February 2019, “parts fell off the board numerous times without warning,” according to the complaint filed by attorney Donn Mixon of Mixon & Worsham of Jonesboro.
In April 2019, lightning hit the board, resulting in the School District, which has about 1,500 students, paying Ace $265,000 to repair it.
And on Sept. 19, 2019, “the entire video board structure folded over to the ground when the steel I-beams supporting it bent,” the suit said. Ace agreed to repair the scoreboard at no cost to Trumann.
But the district continued to have problems with the board at times during the 2020 and 2021 football seasons, and alleged Ace failed to complete the repairs, the suit said.
The district filed the suit for breach of contract and negligence in June 2022 and was seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
Ace, in its court filings, denied that the School District is entitled to any damages. And Ace denied that it breached any contract or was negligent “in any respect,” according to the filing by its attorney, Robert M. Honea of Hardin Jesson & Terry of Fort Smith.
While that case is pending, Ace’s insurance company, National Trust Insurance Co. of Indianapolis, and FCCI Insurance Co. of Sarasota, Florida, filed a complaint last week against Ace in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. (National Trust is a subsidiary of FCCI Insurance Group, which is a subsidiary of FCCI Insurance Co.)
National Trust wants a judge to rule that Ace doesn’t have coverage at all in the case with the School District.
The insurance company is represented by F. Thomas Curry of McMillan McCorkle & Curry of Arkadelphia.
Jason Offutt, president of Ace Signs, had a different take on the events surrounding the scoreboard.
He said that when the scoreboard was hit by lightning, the warranty was voided. But the School District decided to fix it. “So we went in and replaced the components that were damaged and all that,” Offutt said.
Another storm blew through and damaged the scoreboard — again.
“And we went back out there and we fixed that at our cost,” he said. And then a third lightning strike happened.
“At that point, they didn’t want to file it on their insurance, so they were upset that we just didn’t fix it for free,” Offutt said.
He said Ace did its best to help the district, but the damage was caused by natural disasters. “And those are things we really can’t help.”
Offutt said the district wants its money back, “so that didn’t seem fair to us.”
He said that Ace’s insurance carrier wants to pull out of the case because the alleged damage was caused by natural disasters, and the “lawsuit shouldn’t happen.”