High Liner, Haven working to settle USD 10 million trade secrets case

Published on
September 30, 2019

The ongoing legal dispute between High Liner and Haven Foods, in which High Liner alleges that former Rubicon executives poached its Kroger frozen shrimp business, may come to an end by January 2020.

In a new joint report filed in U.S. District Court in California, High Liner and Haven Foods agreed to “engage in preliminary settlement discussions and to explore settlement,” they wrote. The two parties said they would agree on a private neutral mediator and participate in a private mediation proceeding prior to 31 January, 2020. 

However, both parties also leveled accusations at the other in the joint report, and laid out a proposed trial schedule that would run through January 2021.

While High Liner does not know the exact amount of damages caused by Haven, it will exceed USD 10 million (EUR 9.2 million), the Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, Canada supplier said.

In the lawsuit, filed in June, High Liner said that former Rubicon executives Justin Kirby, Nicholas Leonard, Lucas Biging, and Ernest Dominguez, who worked in High Liner’s frozen shrimp division, utilized proprietary information to snatch Kroger’s “Simple Truth” shrimp business from High Liner.

Kirby and Leonard incorporated Los Angeles, California-based Haven Foods in early February, and the company is based at a cold storage facility previously used by Rubicon to house millions of dollars of inventory for Rubicon’s customers, the complaint said.

However, Haven Foods denied the allegations and said that High Liner – unhappy with the outcome of Kroger’s “open and competitive bid process and trying to justify High Liner’s USD 107 million [EUR 98.2 million]  acquisition of Rubicon that resulted in multiple executive firings (including multiple CEOs of High Liner), layoffs, and the loss of other non-exclusive Rubicon customers prior to Leonard and Kirby’s departure – seek to exert anti-competitive leverage against Haven Foods,” Haven said in the joint report. 

“Haven Foods contends that this lawsuit seeks to stifle lawful completion by plaintiffs’ former employees, while the separate arbitration proceeding attempts to enforce an illegal non-compete provision in Leonard’s and Kirby’s employment agreements with plaintiffs. Moreover, Haven Foods contends that plaintiffs and/or plaintiffs’ principals encouraged Leonard and Kirby to terminate their employment with plaintiffs, were aware of the departures, and authorized and/or assisted Leonard and Kirby in fairly competing against plaintiffs after their departure,” the supplier added.

In addition, High Liner has not identified precisely what information plaintiffs contend are protectable trade secrets, “instead offering only general categories of supposed trade secrets in their operative complaint,” Haven said.

High Liner has also filed two other complaints against Kirby and Leonard in other courts.

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