Nearly five months after being sued over a $220,000 piece of firefighting equipment, American LaFrance LLC is making no efforts to defend itself.
Nor is the big investment firm that backed the business for years, before the Moncks Corner-based manufacturer failed in January.
Quiroga Trucks S.A. alleges that American LaFrance breached a contract to build and deliver a 75-foot aerial ladder assembly, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston.
Quiroga, which is headquartered in Mexico, is seeking the return of its $110,000 deposit and consequential damages that include $193,191 for a breach-of-contract claim from a client in Chile that ultimately was supposed to get the ladder.
American LaFrance has yet to file any formal responses to the complaint, which was brought March 20. Also, it has not notified the court whether it has hired an attorney to work on the case.
As a result of that, Quiroga asked U.S. Magistrate Bristow Marchant last week to issue a default judgment against American LaFrance. No one representing American LaFrance attended the hearing.
Marchant didn't rule Thursday. Instead, he ordered a revision of Quiroga's lawsuit, asking the company to add details such as all penalties imposed for the breach-of-contract claim from the Chilean customer.
The hearing included testimony from Quiroga official Irma Mercedes Aguayo Duran. She said her company was unable to contact American LaFrance officials to discuss a refund or delivery of the ladder.
"We've contacted American LaFrance but they have not responded to our phone calls or emails," she said.
Quiroga signed a contract with American LaFrance in October to have the ladder completed by April, Duran said.
American LaFrance abruptly ceased operations in Berkeley County and locations in Pennsylvania and California in mid-January.
Quirago attorney John R.C. Bowen said he was confident the company would receive a settlement in the case, saying he first has to pinpoint the companies handling American LaFrance's finances.
New York-based Patriarch Partners, which has described itself as the "collateral manager" for the investment funds that own American LaFrance, has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
The firm has denied being the owner of the failed business. A judge presiding over an employment lawsuit against American LaFrance has disagreed with that argument. Testimony in that case "indicates that Patriarch did have control over American LaFrance and how it ran its business, negotiated contracts on its behalf and controlled its facilities," District Court Judge Richard Gergel wrote in a June 2 ruling.
In June, Berkeley County auctioned off equipment it seized at the American LaFrance plant to recoup about $650,000 it was owed in delinquent tax fees.
John McDermott of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.