Ocean Spray Files Lawsuit Against Decas, Several Growers and Other Handlers for Deceptive Business Practices

Cooperative Cites Need to Defend Itself

Aug 02, 2010, 16:15 ET from Ocean Spray

LAKEVILLE-MIDDLEBORO, Mass., Aug. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. today has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts for violations of federal and state law by defendants Decas Cranberry Sales, Inc. and related companies, as well as several unnamed cranberry growers and handlers.  The suit alleges that the defendants orchestrated a deceitful campaign falsely accusing Ocean Spray of violating the law and harming the cranberry industry.

"We took this action to defend the Cooperative and our growers from an unscrupulous group of competitors who made false statements and accusations about our Cooperative in efforts to protect their own market share and profits," said Richard Stamm, Vice President and General Counsel. "Decas has colluded with a group of growers and handlers to engage in a calculated and unlawful propaganda campaign to damage Ocean Spray's reputation and relationships with our growers, customers and consumers.  The 'John Doe' defendants will be named as we confirm their identities and involvement with this conspiracy through the discovery process.  This is a common practice in conspiracy-type cases."

The legal complaint states that the defendants joined together in promoting a smear campaign against Ocean Spray that included:

  • Soliciting cranberry growers (including Ocean Spray's grower-owners) not to work with Ocean Spray
  • Soliciting cranberry growers (including Ocean Spray's grower-owners) to join an intended lawsuit against Ocean Spray by falsely claiming that Ocean Spray is violating federal law, including the federal antitrust laws.  

The Complaint also alleges that Decas Cranberry, Ocean Spray's direct competitor, has used a variety of additional deceptive tactics and media for Decas' disinformation campaign, including widely distributed letters and emails to growers, internet blogs and websites, Facebook accounts, YouTube videos and Twitter postings that Decas fraudulently led consumers to believe emanated from an independent non-profit consumer advocacy group, rather than from Decas Cranberry itself.  

The suit cites the defendants on eight counts of violations of the Agricultural Fair Practices Act, 7 U.S.C. section 2301; Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. section 1125(a); and the Massachusetts Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, sections 2, 11.

About Ocean Spray

Ocean Spray is an agricultural cooperative owned by 650 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and other parts of Canada as well as approximately 50 Florida grapefruit growers. Ocean Spray was formed 80 years ago by three cranberry growers from Massachusetts and New Jersey. Florida grapefruit growers joined the Cooperative in 1976. Ocean Spray is North America's leading producer of shelf-stable juice drinks, and has been the best-selling brand name in that category since 1981. Ocean Spray posted record results across the board in fiscal 2009, including gross sales of $2 billion and net proceeds of $346 million.

SOURCE Ocean Spray