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Perfecto Omega Furniture Plc, is asking the court to lift a freeze on their assets that was previously imposed after they were sued by Wondwossen Mengistu. On Thursday December 18, The Federal High Court’s 7th Civil Bench began hearing the alleged damage compensation claim to the tune of 7.26 million birr, brought by Wondwossen against Perfecto.
During testimony, the defendant’s lawyer Aman Assefa argued that Perfecto did install the disputed furniture in 25 out of 32 rooms on three separate floors of the hotel building.
“We installed the furniture in 25 rooms and we tried to work on the fourth floor as well, which is the last floor we agreed to equip but we were not able to do so because the hotel owner was still working on those rooms at the time,” Aman explained to the court.
Perfecto’s lawyer also noted that the plaintiff failed to mention the number of rooms that Perfecto did install furniture in, when filling the complaint with the court.
He also pointed to the English version of the contract as evidence that Perfecto was responsible for transporting the furniture parts to the site and fixing them in the rooms before transferring them to the buyer.
Even if Perfecto was supposed to install the furniture they couldn’t, the lawyer argued, because the rooms were not ready, they were not painted nor carpeted, so the hotel owner would end up moving the furniture again anyway, he explained.
Perfecto’s lawyer also said that the date of completion of the hotel was much later than stated in the complaint filed to the court. In fact rooms were still being worked on this year, the defendant’s lawyer argued.
“If you look at the way most furniture businesses operate, they seldom deliver furniture until the building is complete,” Aman said. “They didn’t even have the fourth floor painted and carpeted until June 2013, when they took the case to court, as well as when we responded to the claims in July this year,” he explained.
How much are the rooms worth?
Perfecto is also contesting the amount of damages.
With regards to the room rates the plaintiff is claiming, Aman argued that 80 percent are actually considered to be expenses. The lawyer further argued that it was unlikely that the rates would be that high because the hotel probably would not be a ‘four star standard’ hotel, as Wondwossen is claiming.
And if that was the case, he argued, then why did they enter into contract with Perfecto as “Wondwossen Guesthouse?”
In addition the defendant’s lawyer indicated that hotels currently are not being given star ratings and that even if they were, there is not any documented evidence about the standard of the hotel.
An investment license does not indicate the hotel’s star rating, and the plaintiff’s investment license was issued four years ago, while the furniture contract with Perfecto was signed in March 2012, explained Aman.
Wondwossen’s lawyer countered that only eight, not 25 rooms, were fitted with Perfecto’s furniture.
He pointed to the contract signed in March 2012, which showed a price of just over 1.56 million birr they agreed upon in exchange for delivering 32 beds and bedroom furniture.
Girma Worku, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said his client paid half of that amount when signing the contract and the defendant agreed to deliver the furniture parts within 90 days and assemble and deliver it within 21 working days.
The contract had two parts, Girma said, delivering the furniture and installing it.
“We waited nine months to write a warning letter to Perfecto because we had worked with them before and had previously had a positive experience,” he explained.
He further said that Perfecto never said anything about having difficulty completing their job on time because of the conditions of the rooms on the fourth floor.
Girma said that the hotel charges USD 100 per day, which is certainly consistent with a high end hotel and far from what any guesthouse would charge. He pointed to the price list of the hotel as evidence.
Girma said his client deserves the compensation they are requesting because in the end the hotel did not get the furniture they were promised.
Girma also attached evidence from the Addis Ababa Trade and Industry, Tourism Bureau about the hotel standard. The total construction cost of the hotel is 180 million birr, he indicated, saying that “the court can easily see what kind of a hotel it is by looking at the documentation from the relevant government office.”
After hearing the arguments, Judge Endashaw Haile, who is overseeing the case, asked the plaintiff when the building was completed. Their lawyer responded that the building was fully completed in June 2012.
The defendant’s lawyer, on his part, replied that the entire building was under construction through May 2013; the time his client received a written warning from the plaintiff.
The court was adjourned until December 27, 2013 to rule on the defendant’s request to lift the assets’ freezing imposed by the court two weeks ago