Thursday, May 9, 2013
A fifth lawsuit has emerged against Mississippi Products Inc.
JACKSON Mississippi Products Inc., the company Jackson mayoral hopeful Jonathan Lee's family owns, has now responded to one of several pending lawsuits against MPI.
On Dec. 2, 2012, Diversey Inc. filed a lawsuit against MPI for non-payment on purchases of cleaning supplies and other products, the latest in a series of similar lawsuits against MPI starting in 2011. Several of the earlier lawsuits ended in default judgments because Mississippi Products did not respond to the complaints, leaving the company owing what Lee called "about $200,000" recently.
Mississippi Products Inc., headquartered at 2457 Valley St., is a disposable-goods supplier and warehouser—a "middleman" between Mississippi companies and government agencies, such as the University of MIssissippi Medical Center, and suppliers such as Diversey, which tend to be headquartered out of state or even outside the United States.
Diversey's global headquarters are located in Amsterdam, and the company has a North American base of operations in Sturtevant, Wis.
In its answer, filed May 2, MPI refutes Diversey's claim that MPI owes $23,923.75 or that Diversey has demanded payment. "Mississippi Products admits only that a purported 'Statement of Account' is attached to the complaint, the terms speak for themselves," MPI's answer reads.
Lee, 35, and Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba will compete for Jackson's mayor's seat in a May 21 runoff election. Throughout his campaign, Lee has touted his experience as a businessman as a chief qualification for the job and told the Jackson Free Press last year that he was running as a "small business owner," although he said recently he has never owned the company.
Ward Conville, an attorney for Diversey, told the Jackson Free Press that he could not discuss pending litigation. A call placed this afternoon to MPI's attorney, Christopher D. Meyer of the Jackson firm Burr & Forman, did not immediately call back. Dorsey Carson, a Lee supporter and former Democratic candidate for Mississippi House of Representatives, is a Burr & Forman partner.
MPI also claims that Diversey's claims are barred by: "the statute of frauds ... statute of limitations ... equitable defense doctrine of unclean hands ... (and) lack of privity with Mississippi Products." The answer also states that the plaintiff's claims are barred in whole or in part by the doctrine of accord and satisfaction.
MPI goes on to state that Diversey failed to mitigate its damages and if Diversey suffered damages, "the damages were caused, in whole or in part, by the acts of omission of third parties for whom Mississippi Products should not be held responsible."
Lee, in an interview with Jackson Free Press editorial board in late April, attributed the judgments--five in all--to a disagreement between Mississippi Products, vendors and a former customer who had ordered the products through his company and then decided they didn't want them. Lee would not reveal the name of the customer, but a person with knowledge of the situation said the customer is a government agency based in the Jackson area.
UPDATE: This article has been update to reflect a correction. A previous version misidentified the ward Councilman Chokwe Lumumba represents as Ward 7. Lumumba represents Ward 2 on the Jackson council.