24.8.05

Defamation - Bud Brewer in big bucks settlement



Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch is reported to have reached a settlement in its long running legal battle with the family of baseball legend Roger Maris

The case dates back to a court action which the Maris family (trading as Maris Distributing) won against Anheuser-Busch back in 2001. That original action related to the termination of a beer distribution deal in 1997 and saw the jury award damages of 50 million dollars against the brewer.

That award became tied up in the associated defamation claim under which it was alleged that the brewer had defamed Maris by alleging sub-standard distribution and selling beer beyond its sell-by date. Allowing for interest on the judgment debt, the figure claimed by the Maris family had been placed at a staggering 5 billion dollars (enought to dwarf any UK defamation action and send shockwaves in the direction of those involved in claims for trade libel)

Having originally granted distributorship to Maris at the end of his baseball career, Anheuser-Busch was accused of conspiring to retain its preferred distributors while forcing others out of the market. The protracted legal dispute saw no love lost between the parties who both seemed relieved that a settlement had been reached. No details were given as to the figure but taking into account legal costs and the interest on the 2001 judgment debt, a billion dollars (give or take) may not be out of the question. (The brewer's accounts show an allowance of nearly 40 million dollars for the judgment debt alone).

The settlement came as the jury continued with its second day of deliberations on the back of a three week trial and has been seen in some quarters as a damage limitation exercise.

Whatever the undisclosed settlement figure, this goes to show that when it comes to dirt dishing in the competitive world of business, the legal consequences can create a true hangover.

Details from Forbes.com HERE
More:
St. Louis Business Journal HERE
USA Today HERE

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