SAN ANTONIO -- A lawsuit filed by 13 independent food brokers against Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, and its in-house private-label broker, Federated Foods, Arlington Heights, Ill., is expected to go to trial here later this year.
The expectation for trial comes in the wake of suspension of court-ordered mediation. Galen Watje, the attorney representing the 13 brokers, said the principals in the case attempted to mediate their differences in meetings earlier this year.
When those talks broke down, the plaintiffs opted to move the case to a jury trial in U.S. Federal Court here. Watje told SN he expects the trial to begin in early September. Regarding the case, Watje said, "Albertson's acted like a bully on the playground who stole all my clients' lunch money. Now I'm going to ask the court to take away all of Albertson's profits for the past three years, which totalled about $93 million per quarter, or about $1.1 billion over three years, plus triple compensatory damages for the $24 million over three years, at the rate of $8 million a year, that Albertson's has derived from this program." An Albertson's spokesman told SN, "There's been no trial date set, but we continue to prepare for a trial, and we feel we have good and adequate defenses to all the allegations.
Dave Dougherty, Federated president, told SN his company would defend the suit but declined further comment. The suit was filed in May 1993 by Independent Representatives Equity, Boise, a group formed by brokers in Idaho, California, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin to pursue legal action against Albertson's and Federated. The 13 brokers, who formerly represented a variety of manufacturers' private-label lines to Albertson's, claim they lost business when Albertson's switched its private-label buying to Federated in late 1992.