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Friday, March 23, 2007

Wal-Mart Has A Big-Name Ohio Lawyer: Otto Beatty III, Dem House Leader's Stepson

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Otto Beatty III is defending Wal-Mart in a federal lawsuit filed by a Bellefontaine contractor who claims the discount chain owes nearly $1.3 million. Beatty's stepmother, Joyce, is the Democratic leader of the Ohio House of Representatives. Wal-Mart's business practices are frequently a target of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which runs a Web site devoted to critiquing the Arkansas-based chain. Democrats generally side with organized labor, and many have spoken out against Wal-Mart for coming up short in the corporate responsibility department.

Over the years, there have been complaints that it squeezes suppliers. In this instance, Wal-Mart says the Ohio contractor is trying to shift responsibility for its own poor performance.

The Dem leader's stepson is a parter at Baker & Hostetler. The lawsuit pending before U.S. District Judge Thomas Rose in Dayton is a breach of contract case involving construction of a supercenter in Springfield. Joyce Beatty has no involvement in the dispute, but some probably would find it interesting that a member of her family has a business relationship with the retailer.

Thomas & Marker, the company in court against Wal-Mart, claims it had a $9.61 million deal as general contractor on the new supercenter. It contends it was required to perform unanticipated rock excavation at the site, which required a change order because costs increased due to the unforeseen circumstances.

"In according with the terms and provisions of the contract documents, Thomas & Marker has requested and attempted to obtain payment for all costs incurred in connection with the rock excavation, but Wal-Mart has refused to pay same. Wal-Mart does not have a contractual basis to deny payment to Thomas & Marker."

The contractor said it relied upon geotechnical reports supplied by Wal-Mart when bidding the job, and the reports were inaccurate. It said Wal-Mart made an offer of about $750,000 -- not enough to cover costs -- but that another "official or employee of Wal-Mart denied knowledge of the offer."

Wal-Mart responded to the lawsuit by saying by asserting it has acted in good faith. Beatty III wrote that the contractor screwed up installation of utility lines for the store. No trial date has been set.

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