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2 wineries say manager stole grapes in contract disputes

Contract disputes in the wine-making industry are as common as in any other business. California is of course a center of domestic wine-making, and the state courts are usually the host of such controversies. For example, two wineries recently sued their vineyard manager, accusing him of confiscating about 6 tons of grapes to his own winery instead of to those owned by the plaintiffs. If the allegations are proved to be true in these contract disputes, then the manager is not only civilly liable for damages but there may also be a criminal violation.

The two associated wineries are claiming that they've been unable to prepare the grapes for winemaking. The complaint alleges a wrongful taking of the grapes by the defendant Hill Wine Company. The plaintiff company claims a contract signed with Hill in 2012 to manage and work several of its vineyards. The lawsuit claims a breach of contract by Hill. As an aside, it's strange that the two wineries hired a competitor to control their raw product.

Hill's attorney, however, stated that the problem had only to do with the plaintiffs' failure to pay his client, and that Hill did not take any grapes. The attorney attached documentation in the answer to allegedly prove that all grapes were delivered to the plaintiff. The attorney stated that the contract calls for mediation of contract disputes. The Napa County Superior Court would apparently set up and administer the mediation.

If the allegations of the plaintiffs are true, then damages from these contract disputes would include the value of the grapes but could also include lost profits in losing the benefit of being able to manufacture the grapes into wine, and sell the wine for a profit. Proving a business's lost profits in a breach of contract claim is possible but sometimes difficult, because of the variables that could arise and prevent a profit from being made. It will be interesting to follow the proceedings in the California courts to see which side may not be quite telling the full truth.

Source: napavalleyregister.com, Vineyard manager sued over grape dispute, Kerana Todorov, Jan. 3, 2014

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