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Thompson Coburn secures $8.3 million victory for RyKrisp™ cracker owner

October 23, 2019

On October 22, Thompson Coburn attorneys succeeded in securing an $8.3 million verdict from a Cook County jury in favor of Firm client RyKrisp, LLC in a dispute between the rye cracker producer and food manufacturer Distinctive Foods, LLC. RyKrisp LLC owns the iconic RyKrisp™ cracker that has been on grocery shelves for over 125 years. The judgment ensures that RyKrisp will recover damages and lost profits following Distinctive’s conversion of RyKrisp’s equipment and tortious efforts to interfere with RyKrisp’s business.

The matter originated with an unsuccessful business arrangement between the parties. After purchasing the intellectual property and brand of the 125-year old cracker from ConAgra in May 2015, RyKrisp soon began exploring a long-term manufacturing agreement with Distinctive. Once this business relationship proved unsuccessful due to a number of issues, RyKrisp found a replacement manufacturer and entered an agreement.

On July 12, 2016, Distinctive Foods took the equipment from RyKrisp’s storage facility and demanded payment of $100,000 or the equipment would be sold by Distinctive. Following the conversion, RyKrisp filed a complaint seeking a replevin order. Distinctive finally returned the equipment in June 2017, but after returning the equipment, Distinctive’s CEO contacted RyKrisp’s new manufacturer and coerced them into ceasing production for RyKrisp--resulting in over $2 million in lost profits.

During the week-long trial, Distinctive attempted to argue that it had a right to take possession of the equipment and denied their communications with RyKrisp’s new manufacturer amounted to tortious interference. Thompson Coburn trial attorneys, successfully sank the claims by demonstrating Distinctive wrongfully detained the equipment. Then, the team illustrated Distinctive’s deliberate attempt to coerce RyKrisp’s new manufacturer into abandoning their contract with RyKrisp, resulting in millions of dollars of lost profits.

After 8 hours of deliberation, the jury entered judgment in favor of RyKrisp, granting both claims for damages and denied all but one of Distinctive’s claims.

“This is an incredibly satisfying day. By awarding this huge punitive damage award of $6 million, the jury sent a clear message that the conduct deliberately taken by defendant Distinctive Foods, and its principal Josh Harris, in seizing and holding equipment that RyKrisp owned and interfering with RyKrisp’s contract with another baking facility will not be tolerated” said Todd Rowden, RyKrisp’s lead trial attorney and Thompson Coburn partner. “They sent an unmistakable powerful message.”

Throughout the entire case, RyKrisp was represented by Todd Rowden, Thompson Coburn partner James Oakley, associate Eileen Boyle Perich, and associate Holly Campbell.

The case, RyKrisp, LLC v. Distinctive Foods, LLC, 2016 L 050685 was held in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Media coverageFood fight brings $8M jury award (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin)