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Rival Sues Wickes Unit, Claims Fraud

May 22, 1987|MARTHA GROVES | Times Staff Writer

A tiny competitor of Collins & Aikman, a unit of Wickes Cos., has filed suit against the large carpet maker, alleging that it "fraudulently falsified and misrepresented" test results submitted to Florida customers and attempted to win a monopoly by telling clients that the plaintiff's products were inferior.

The suit, filed Wednesday by Ball-Nicklaus Carpet Industries in state court in Pinellas County, Fla., is the second to be lodged against Collins & Aikman since it was disclosed April 15 that544499813fire and smoke codes.

Two weeks ago, a former dealer of Collins & Aikman carpeting filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia alleging breaches of warranty and violation by Collins & Aikman of federal and state laws.

Officials at Santa Monica-based Wickes said they had not seen the new complaint and therefore had no comment. The company has said it plans to "vigorously defend" against the Philadelphia suit.

The Florida complaint seeks unspecified damages "in excess of $250,000" in lost profits on contracts that Ball-Nicklaus, a St. Petersburg company, claims it might have won had Collins & Aikman not "interfered with the business relations" between the plaintiff and various school boards in the state of Florida.

"We're also asking for punitive damages . . . and one of the tests that a jury (in Florida) uses is the net worth of the defendant," if it is found that the defendant's acts were "malicious and in willful disregard" of the plaintiff's rights, said John M. (Skip) Walters, an attorney for Ball-Nicklaus.

Collins & Aikman, which has headquarters in New York, has annual sales of about $1.2 billion. Wickes.

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