Miami International Airport

MIA baggage-wrap firm loses two legal challenges

 

pmazzei@MiamiHerald.com

TrueStar USA, the incumbent company that lost its lucrative contract for wrapping baggage at Miami International Airport, foundered this week in two lawsuits against its rival, Safe Wrap.

On Thursday, a Miami-Dade judge denied TrueStar’s attempt to block Safe Wrap from entering into a contract with Miami-Dade County. On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed a claim that Safe Wrap had engaged in civil racketeering using “Mafia-style tactics” to defame TrueStar.

The court setbacks come a week after TrueStar’s defeat at the hands of county commissioners, who selected Safe Wrap to encase travelers’ luggage in clingy plastic to prevent theft. Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who had recommended TrueStar, vetoed commissioners’ initial decision, which they later upheld.

TrueStar sued, arguing the commission violated county procurement rules by choosing Safe Wrap, which offered a lower minimum annual payment. Safe Wrap later matched TrueStar’s offer, but not the percentage of gross monthly revenues it would pay the county if they exceed the minimum payment. Commissioners said they could not trust TrueStar because shortly after being awarded the contract, it sought and received a reduction in its minimum payment last year.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey ruled commissioners did not inappropriately exercise their powers by choosing Safe Wrap, despite the lower monthly revenues offer. She added that there would be “no benefit to the public by rejecting all bids and starting over.”

“The courts give great discretion to local government when making these types of decisions,” said John Shubin, a Safe Wrap attorney.

In federal court, TrueStar — under the corporate name Sinapsis Trading USA — sued Safe Wrap — under the corporate name Secure Wrap — contending Secure Wrap went after Sinapsis, locally and oversees, in retaliation after Sinapsis won the MIA baggage-wrapping contract over Secure Wrap in 2010.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams opined that TrueStar failed to prove that Secure Wrap acted “beyond the bounds of legitimate business competition” or prove defamation by blogger Nelson Horta, whom Sinapsis alleged diffused “false” information.

Williams, who in an unusual step first ruled from the bench before issuing her written opinion, chided the “florid prose” in Sinapsis’ complaint, which, among other things, made references to the Mafia movies The Godfather and Goodfellas.

“I have never seen a complaint that is based on [allusions] to Mafia movies,” said Joseph DeMaria, the Safe Wrap attorney who argued the case.

Pablo Acosta, a TrueStar lawyer and lobbyist, said the firm its weighing its remaining legal options in both cases.

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