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Vignerons de la Méditerranée sues Westchester County Importer Pasternak

On January 5, 2015, plaintiff Vignerons de la Méditerranée (“VM”) filed a complaint in the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of Westchester against Harrison-based importer Pasternak Wine Imports (defendant). The complaint names Domaines Barons de Rothschild (“DBR”) as a co-defendant to the complaint. Pasternak was the U.S. importer of the French wine company and in its complaint, VM claims breach of contract with damages of over $600,000. The complaint also alleges several other causes of action including implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, tortious interference, and unfair competition.

VM argues that Pasternak conspired to limit the sales of its Pays d’Oc wines in the U.S. A wine boasting Pays d’Oc IGP is one that is produced completely within the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France and has been approved by the Pays d’Oc Wine Producers Union and meets strict quality criteria. According to the complaint, Pasternak agreed by contract not to market, represent, or sell any French Vin Pays d’Oc in the U.S. that was not supplied by the plaintiff, unless defendant obtained written consent from VM. At some point in time during this relationship—the exact date of which is not made clear by the complaint—the winemaker alleges that Pasternak created a subsidiary, Pasternak Wine Imports, LLC, and transferred all benefits, interests, liabilities, and obligations (including distribution rights) under the original Agreement between the parties to the new sub without the consent of VM. Further, interest was purchased by a competing French wine company, DBR (a direct competitor of the French winemaker). The defendant made the subsidiary the exclusive distributor of the plaintiff’s wines without the consent of the plaintiff (in or around March 2007). 

The complaint sets forth that VM sales in the U.S. decreased significantly and the importer failed to remit payment on invoices from the plaintiff. Further, as alleged by the plaintiff, the subsidiary marketed, represented, and sold competing wines from the Pays d’Oc region in the U.S. wines without the consent of the plaintiff. Alas, VM contends Pasternak and DBR conspired to limit the sales of VM’s Pays d’Oc wine while promoting the sale and distribution of DBR wines. In particular:

DBR conspired with [Pasternak Wine Imports, LLC] to preserve and expand its market for foreclosing access to VM products, business and distribution channels in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and by forcing, enticing and/or compelling [Pasternak Wine Imports, LLC] to market and advertise DBR’s competing wines rather than Plaintiff’s wines. As a result, [Pasternak Wine Imports, LLC] failed to comply with its contractual obligations to Plaintiff by failing to properly promote and market Plaintiff’s wines.

See  Vignerons de la Mediteranee vs. Pasternak and Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Index Number 50102/2015), Page 5.

The Commercial Division of New York Supreme Court, where the complaint was filed, handles complicated commercial cases, so should the case proceed, it is quite possible it may be removed (if diversity jurisdiction is found) and even sent to the court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Program (“ADR”) if the court thinks the case is resolvable under the ADR process and wants it off of the court’s docket. Additionally, much of the outcome of this particular case may depend on how the contract between the two parties was originally drafted (a copy of the contract was not accessible via the public copy of the summons and complaint). 

See more information at Languedoc Wine Group sues US Importer.

To view a copy of the complaint, please see Vignerons de la Mediteranee vs. Pasternak and Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Index Number 50102/2015).

For more information on wine or alcohol law, direct shipping, licensing, or other legal matters please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.

 

Lindsey A. Zahn

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Lindsey is the founder and author of On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog. She is an alcohol beverage and food attorney and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

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