Gables commissioners authorize lawsuit against trolley company
By Risa Polansky
Coral Gables commissioners Tuesday authorized a lawsuit against trolley provider Ebus for what officials feel is a breach of warranty while the company's owner says he offered to resolve the issue last week.
"We've been having issues with this vendor for some time," City Attorney Elizabeth Hernandez said during the City Commission's regular monthly meeting. "We have been sending him written notice, and we've gotten nowhere. It's now time to file suit."
Ebus owner Andy Eklov said by telephone after Tuesday's meeting that he offered the city a $26,000 credit to cover labor costs not specified in the warranty but has not received a response.
"We've never been sued by a customer or threatened to be sued," Mr. Eklov said. "It's an unpleasant situation. We'd like to get this resolved."
In a memo to commissioners Aug. 14, Ms. Hernandez wrote, "Simply stated, the vehicles have not met reliability expectations and continue to cost the city to maintain them and keep them operating."
When Coral Gables bought its five hybrid electric trolleys in April 2003 for about $1.4 million, Ebus, based in Downey, CA, guaranteed the vehicles would be defect-free for one year or 25,000 miles.
Several parts failed during the first year - including air-conditioning units and traction controllers. Ms. Hernandez said the city incurred about $25,000 in labor costs for repairs.
Ebus reimbursed the city for parts covered under the warranty, Mr. Eklov said. A dispute over labor costs began when Ebus charged the city $61,000 for parts it ordered in February, he said.
"They brought up all these accusations from three years ago as a reason why they shouldn't have to pay this bill," he said. "But it's completely unrelated."
According to Ms. Hernandez' Aug 14. memo, city officials tried to negotiate an extended warranty but Ebus' offer to cover each trolley for $2,100 per month was "an unreasonable, cost-prohibitive amount for a warranty."
Ms. Hernandez said in the memo that the city has had issues with Ebus' troubleshooting, availability and delivery of spare parts. The city has requested a parts or repair manual for two years, she wrote, and has not received it.
"In an effort to resolve these issues without litigation, the city has sent numerous correspondence to Ebus and has had several conversations with the owner demanding that it honor its obligations under the implied warranties ... reimburse the city for the labor and/or part costs it incurred which should have been covered by the warranty, and/or reimburse the city for the cost of the vehicles which the city would then return to Ebus," Ms. Hernandez wrote. "Ebus has refused any and all such requests."
Ms. Hernandez was unavailable to respond to Mr. Eklov's comments Tuesday.