UFI transportation division being sued for failure to transport materials following closure

ABERDEEN, Miss. — United Furniture Industries is facing its first legal action from a client relating to its alleged failure to deliver materials to a customer following its sudden closure on Nov. 21.

Transportation broker DFW Linq Transport has filed a lawsuit against United Furniture Industries and its transportation division UFI Transportation for failure to deliver materials to a client just south of United’s Tupelo, Mississippi, operations.

DFW Linq is now seeking more than $1 million in punitive and compensatory damages relating to what it deems theft of the materials, described in the suit as more than 44,000 pounds of copper wire.

The suit, filed Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Aberdeen, appears to be the first involving a company that says it has been negatively impacted by United Furniture’s closing.

Other recent lawsuits have been filed on behalf of an estimated 2,700 workers terminated by a late-evening text message without the appropriate 60-day notice required by federal and state WARN Acts.

Following are some details relating to the relationship between DFW and UFI:

According to the suit, the two companies entered a contract in December 2019 in which UFI would deliver goods for DFW. This past November, DFW brokered a shipment for its client Southwire from Denton, Texas, to Starkville, Mississippi, in which UFI was the carrier.

According to the suit, UFI collected the copper from Southwire in Denton on Nov. 19 and was to deliver it to Southwire in Starkville on Nov. 21.

On that date, United and its subsidiaries ceased operations, terminating more than 2,000 workers. The suit says this included 245 drivers who were instructed to bring all their trucks and trailers to the UFI location in Tupelo and drop off the equipment whether the trailers contained a load or not.

On Nov. 21, DFW Linq said it dispatched one of its drivers to the Tupelo location to reclaim the copper to complete the delivery to Southwire. However, it said it was denied access to the materials.

The suit claims that UFI has wrongfully detained the copper and that it has been unsuccessful in its attempts to obtain the copper from UFI. The suit claims the materials  — which have a fair market value of $147,000 —are now in danger of being lost, damaged or stolen.

DFW Linq considers the taking of the copper to be an “act of theft and conversion by the defendants.”

“Copper is a raw material. Raw materials are the inputs used in the production process to create finished products that are ready to sell to consumers, making raw materials a vital piece of the global economy and international trade,” the suit claims. “Defendants ceasing the delivery of the copper will halt manufacturing of other products for which copper is needed in the very beginning of the production process. Therefore plaintiff risks being liable for those manufacturing delays and damages.”

Among other claims, the suit says UFI Transportation has breached its contract and that its conduct relating to its alleged refusal to release the materials constitutes conversion.

In addition to more than $500,000 in punitive damages relating to UFI’s alleged failure to release the materials, the plaintiff is seeking more than $500,000 in compensatory damages, excluding interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.

Repeated attempts to contact former United executives and company owner David Belford have been unsuccessful.

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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