In a span of just six months of preparation and five days of jury trial in East Baton Rouge Parish, Adams and Reese not only obtained a defense verdict vindicating its client, Bruce Foods, from fraud allegations and $24 million of damages sought, but also received a verdict for Bruce Foods in the amount of $1.1 million on its counterclaim for breach of contract.
The case, Chef Reece Williams & Company, LLC, et al. v. Bruce Foods Corporation, et al., was decided on May 12 by jury trial in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge. Judge Kay Bates presided over the jury trial.
In 2003, Bruce Foods purchased the Williams' Cajun Injector products, which are injectable marinades that enhance flavor of meat, seafood and poultry. Bruce Foods, founded in 1928 in New Iberia, is one of America's largest privately-owned food manufacturers with more than 350 food products distributed throughout the U.S. and in more than 100 countries, and carried by most of the top retail grocery chains worldwide.
Under the contract, Williams also entered into a consulting agreement with Bruce Foods. Two years later, Williams sued Bruce Foods alleging fraud, claiming that he was fraudulently induced to sell the products. He sought up to $24 million in damages at the trial.
Adams and Reese took over for existing counsel for Bruce Foods in November, 2008 and had six months to prepare for a jury trail that would start in May. "It was a stressful endeavor taking over a case that with this kind of major exposure with just six months to prepare for a jury trial," said Adams and Reese lead trial counsel Phil Franco, who was assisted by Adams and Reese attorneys, Jim Rogers and Liz Roussel, and paralegal, Theresa Wilson. "It was a total team effort. A jury verdict the other way could have damaged the business and affected many people’s livelihoods."
After a five day jury trial and two hours of deliberation, the jury found there was no fraud on behalf of Bruce Foods, and ruled that Williams had instead breached the 2003 purchase agreement between the parties. The jury verdict in the amount of $1.1M in favor of Bruce Foods included attorneys' fees.
"We vigorously defended any claim of fraud and always kept to the terms of our contract with Mr. Williams, and we were vindicated by the jury," said Bruce Foods President and CEO, Si Brown. "We were very pleased and satisfied with the outcome, and thank Phil and the legal team at Adams and Reese for the tremendous amount of attention, effort, and expertise devoted to handling this suit under the time constraints imposed on them. No client could have expected more devotion.”
About Bruce Foods: Founded in 1928 in New Iberia, Bruce Foods had been manufacturing original Cajun and Tex Mex food products for more than 80 years. Today, Bruce Foods is one of America's largest privately-owned food manufacturers with more than 1,200 employees, and four processing plants in the U.S. Known for famous "Original" Louisiana brand hot pepper sauce, Cajun Injector Products, Bruce's Yams and Casa Fiesta Mexican food items, more than 350 Bruce Foods products are distributed throughout the U.S. and in more than 100 countries, and are carried by most of the top retail grocery chains worldwide.
About Adams and Reese: Adams and Reese is a multidisciplinary, regional law firm with offices in Baton Rouge, LA; Birmingham, AL; Houston, TX; Jackson, MS; Memphis, TN; Mobile, AL; Nashville, TN; New Orleans, LA and Washington, DC. American Lawyer Magazine recently named Adams and Reese to its distinguished list of the nation’s top 200 firms - “The Am Law 200.” The National Law Journal also lists the firm on the “NLJ 250” of the nation’s largest law firms.