Skatepark construction firm sues rival

One of the nation's leading skatepark design and construction firms is claiming in federal court that a rival has been "engaged … in a campaign of knowing misrepresentation about the safety of its … equipment," among other allegations.

According to the complaint, filed in December 2010 and recently unsealed, skatepark builder Spohn Ranch, based in Southern California, claims that since at least 2004, the prefabricated Pro Series steel ramps produced by American Ramp Co. [ARC] have not lived up to ARC's own safety specifications.

Spohn Ranch's lawsuit, which names as plaintiffs the United States government [representing military bases with ARC equipment], several states and more than five dozen cities, is asking ARC to pay $18 million.

"The point of the lawsuit is not the money," Spohn's general counsel Jeffery Dermer told ESPN. "The point of the lawsuit is to force skatepark builders to tell the truth. The costs of dishonesty needs to be incorporated into business decisions."

In a statement posted on its website, the Missouri-based ARC, which bills itself as the world's largest skatepark provider, responded, "This lawsuit and the website designed to promote the lawsuit are nothing more than an attempt by Spohn Ranch to use the legal system, as opposed to its own product and services, to gain an advantage in the marketplace."

Attorneys representing ARC sent a cease and desist letter to Dermer, stating that americanrampcompanylawsuit.com contains "numerous libelous, slanderous, and defamatory statements," and demanding that it be shut down.

Via e-mail, ARC president Nathan Bemo called the lawsuit "nonsense," supported by the fact that the Department of Justice and the Attorneys General of California and Massachusetts have declined to intervene.

However, in a Jan. 27 letter to Dermer from the Department of Justice, attorney Erica Hitchings explained that the DOJ's "decision to decline should not be construed as a statement about the merits of the case. Indeed, the Government retains the right to intervene at a later date upon a showing of good cause."

"We believe in the strength of our positions and are really looking forward to bringing the case to a jury," Dermer said, adding that Spohn intends to place any proceeds from a successful lawsuit or settlement into a trust fund for affected communities to replace ARC equipment with bona fide concrete skateparks.