North Bay Business Journal Quotes Todd Friedman on Reasons Lawsuits Over Smoke-Tainted Grapes Rarely are Litigated

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Partner Todd Friedman was quoted by the North Bay Business Journal in an article titled “Claims of California North Coast wine grape smoke damage head to court,” published July 6, 2021. The article discusses lawsuits that have been filed in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties in California over grapes that were rejected by the buyer due to smoke damage from 2020’s Glass, Walbridge and Hennessey fires.

Friedman, a co-leader of Stoel Rives’ Agribusiness, Food, Beverage, and Timber Industry Group, said that a legal challenge that occurs frequently in lawsuits such as these is that many commercial agreements lack general specificity as to which party bears the risk when damage occurs to grapes.

Friedman noted also that the expense of litigation is a factor in why disputes over damaged grapes rarely end up in formal dispute resolution proceedings. Most of the disputes he has been involved with are resolved before going to an arbitrated or mediated settlement or litigation.

“Before that point, parties tend to agree to a break on the price to take all the fruit or get a break on pricing next year for an extension of terms and the grower’s giving of something back to the winery,” he said.

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