Customer sues IBM over server fall off forklift

But IBM blames forklift driver, want suit dismissed

A company in the US is suing IBM for more than US$1.4 million over the loss of a server that fell off a forklift during shipping. The company, T.R. Systems, a federal contractor, blamed IBM for not packaging the server properly.

IBM, however, filed a motion with the court earlier this month asking that the lawsuit be dismissed. IBM contends that T.R. Systems' forklift driver was to blame for the mishap.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, in July, T.R. Systems said the incident happened while it was moving one of two US$1.4 million IBM servers it had purchased from a delivery truck into its warehouse.

According to the lawsuit, the rear wheels of the fork lift being used to move the server hit the raised surface at the entry door of the warehouse, causing the forklift to rock and subsequently causing the server to rock. Because of the rocking motion, the base of the pallet holding the crated server broke, and the crate fell onto the curb, damaging the server.

T.R. Systems said IBM refused to go to its warehouse to inspect the damaged server and also refused to take the server back to its facility to test and/or repair it. As a result, T.R. Systems said it was forced to buy a new server and is suing IBM to recover its costs.

"The damages sustained by T.R. Systems were due to the poor workmanship and/or defective packaging design and methods used by IBM to pack the servers prior to shipping," the company said in the court documents.

For its part, IBM placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the T.R. Systems' forklift driver.

"Upon arrival in Virginia, a [T.R. Systems] employee, James Dickerson, used their forklift to remove the crated server from the tractor trailer, which had parked 30 to 40 yards from [the] warehouse door," IBM said in its defense filing. "Mr. Dickerson removed the server from the back of the truck with the aid of [the] forklift and then moved the server across the parking lot to plaintiff's warehouse door."

IBM said the company admitted that when the forklift's wheels hit the concrete lip, or bump, the server rocked on the forks then fell off the forklift and over to the right side, striking the nearby concrete curb.

"As might be expected, the server was damaged as a result of falling off of the forklift and onto a concrete curb some eight feet below," IBM said in its court filing. "...No evidence exists that anything but [T.R. Systems'] negligence caused this accident."

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