An angry legal battle has broken out after an IBM server worth $1.5 million was wrecked falling off a fork-lift truck being used to move it.

TR Systems, a US federal contractor, is suing IBM saying that Big Blue failed to package the server properly. IBM says it did.

The accident happened in October, 2006. The server destined for the US Patent and Trademark Office, was being transferred from a delivery lorry to T.R. Systems' warehouse in Alexandria, Virginia, near Washington, DC. It was packaged in a crate on a pallet and held on a fork lift truck's prongs.

A report said that the rear wheels of the fork lift truck encountered a step at the warehouse entrance. The truck rocked and so did the pallet: "the base of the pallet and the crate broke and the crate fell onto the curb, damaging the server packed inside."

TR Systems tried to have IBM repair or replace the damaged server. Big Blue refused to do either, and didn't even send technicians to look at it. This meant TR Systems had to buy a new one from its own funds. It has now filed a law-suit in the District of Columbia court, saying IBM was negligent in its packaging and asking for at least $1.4 million restitution.

TR Systems admits its driver took the fork lift truck over a step but its claim states: "The damages sustained by TR Systems was due to the poor workmanship and/or defective packaging design and methods used by IBM." In other words it alleges IBM used a weak box and inadequate pallet.

The server details are not revealed but the claim amount and customer suggests that it is a mainframe or System p machine.

Presumably the fork-lift transfer method from delivery lorry to warehouse had been used successfully before, and the raised surface at the entry to the warehouse was a fixture that was known to the fork lift truck driver. The idea of driving a fork lift truck over a step with a heavy server resting on its raised prong sounds risky, especially if it is done at a slant causing the truck to suddenly lift on one side. Was this an accident waiting to happen?