South Lake Tahoe to receive $1.7M as part of settlement over defective ladder truck
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A legal fight over a defective fire ladder truck that saw almost no use during its five years in the city’s procession has been closed.
The city and Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc., reached a settlement agreement Friday, thereby avoiding a trial.
Per the agreement, Ferrara will pay $1.755 million to the city in exchange for the city waiving all claims against the Louisiana-based company. The city will return the truck to Ferrara.
In addition to covering attorney fees for outside legal counsel, the settlement money will pay for the nearly $1.2 million expenditure approved by City Council in March to purchase a new ladder truck. The new ladder truck is being purchased from Sacramento-based Golden State Fire Apparatus Inc. The city expects to receive the new ladder truck around the start of 2020.
“We’re really happy that it ended up the way it did,” Mayor Brooke Laine told the Tribune, noting that the defective engine put real limitations on the fire department.
As interim South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue Chief Jim Drennan noted in a March memo, the city’s inability to use the truck effectively from the time it was purchased left the department without a ladder truck — a piece of equipment that is especially critical for fighting fire and rescue operations involving high rises.
The settlement closes the door on a multi-year saga that, according to the legal complaint filed by the city, involved numerous issues with the ladder truck, which the city purchased for $1.039 million.
The settlement is not an admission of guilt by either party.
Issues with the truck were detected upon its arrival in Tahoe in early 2014, according to the city. The truck was driven by a Ferrara employee from Holden, Louisiana to South Lake Tahoe — a roughly 2,127-mile trip.
The truck arrived with more than 5,000 miles.
Some of the numerous deficiencies the city noted upon receiving the truck included: “missing and improperly attached parts, incorrect electrical wiring, leaking and kinked hydraulic line, burned out lights, and improper installation of parts causing the cab to hit the body of the vehicle when raised and causing damage to the driveline,” according to the legal complaint.
Over the next three years, numerous issues with the ladder truck took it out of use. According to the legal complaint, the city repeatedly contacted Ferrara to try to fix the issues but did not receive responses from the company. The city ultimately made the repairs at its own expense.
The city sued the company in fall 2017, arguing the deficiencies noted when the ladder truck was first received were enough to find Ferrara out of compliance with the requirements of the purchase agreement.
Ferrara argued there were issues with the truck, but that they could be fixed for $350,000. The company offered to make the fixes.
That response was unacceptable, Butch Wagner, an attorney with Wagner Jones Kopfman & Artenian who represented the city, told the Tribune.
Ultimately the two sides arrived at the agreement, which was announced during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Wagner described the settlement as a “good deal” for the city.
Ferrara Fire Apparatus did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday morning.