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Change of venue sought in fair barn lawsuit

ROME TOWNSHIP — The attorney for the Lawrence County Fair Board wants a breach of contract lawsuit filed in Stark County moved closer to home.

In a motion filed on July 30, Proctorville attorney Donald Capper wants the venue of the lawsuit filed by Jeff Simmons, owner of Structure Steel of Canton, which is located in Stark County, changed to Lawrence County.

Structure Steel was hired by the fair board in February to build an approximately $400,000 livestock barn and show arena to be ready for this July fair.

However, the fair board terminated. That contract in May the board cited delays, little work completed and refusal by the contractor to return approximately $200,000 the board said Structure Steel should not have received because there was no work done for that compensation.

A subsequent contractor was hired by the fair board to erect the barn.

But in his lawsuit Simmons said he could not proceed with the barn until necessary permits were acquired, which, according to the contract, was the responsibility of the fair board. He also listed a variety of work including excavation of the footer and installation of steel bar that he contends he completed.

Simmons also said when he took on the project he understood it was privately funded.

“On or about May 17, contrary to prior representations, plaintiff was led to believe that public funds were being used for the funding of the project, which would require that prevailing wages be paid and additional reporting requirements be met, significantly affecting the cost to complete the project,” Simmons’ complaint states. “Plaintiff has performed all of his obligations currently due under the agreement when the defendants terminated the contract. … by their wrongful termination, defendants have breached the contract entered into.”

In his motion, Capper argues that filing the suit in Stark County is inappropriate because the barn was built in Lawrence County.

“The bids were submitted in Lawrence County for the construction contract, all work performed in Lawrence County and the breach of contract occurred in Lawrence County,” the motion states.

“The plaintiff in his complaint against the defendant alleges as the only activity in Stark County that the contract was formed there. Defendants deny that but even if true is not the basis for proper venue.”

Capper seeks a hearing on his motion.

Simmons’ lawsuit asks for compensatory damages in excess of $25,000, a judgment that the contractor can retain all payments received so far and costs. A jury trial is sought.

There has been no date set for a hearing on Capper’s motion.