Resolution on the horizon for contentious CleanFish lawsuit
The breach of contract and trade secrets misappropriation lawsuit that CleanFish LLC brought against CleanFish co-founder Dale Sims is expected to be resolved after three of the four counts were dismissed.
On 14 August, U.S. District Court Judge Haywood S. Gilliam dismissed CleanFish LLC’s claims for trade secret misappropriation, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of fiduciary duty without leave to amend against Sims, who is now owner of Buena Vista Seafood and Island Sea Farms.
“The factual allegations do not support the conclusion that [Island Sea Farms] knew that the information defendant Sims provided (for example, customer lists or identities) was actually plaintiff’s, knew that it was protectable, or knew that defendant Sims acquired it through improper means,” Gilliam wrote.
The fourth count – breach of contract – is expected to be discussed at a late August meeting prior to a case management conference on 1 September, 2020.
The contentious nature of the lawsuit shines through in CleanFish Managing Director Michael Moniz’s reaction to the dismissal of the three counts.
“After the O.J. Simpson acquittal in 1995, nothing shocks or disappoints me,” Moniz told SeafoodSource.
For his part, Sims said he was "delighted with the outcome thus far."
"I feel completely vindicated,” Sims told SeafoodSource. “The seafood industry is as much a business based on personal integrity and relationships as it is based on actual fish on ice. Now that the judgement has been handed down, we can continue to move forward supporting our farmers, fishermen, and others who work tirelessly to produce high-quality, responsible seafood.
Sims said he is confident the dismissal of the majority of CleanFish LLC’s claims will lead to a faster resolution of the case.
“Clearly, since the judge ruled against the other claims, it cannot be shown or argued that CleanFish LLC was damaged or harmed in any way by my leaving. In my view, there is really nothing left for them to achieve or pursue other than to simply harass me,” Sims said. “I hope this whole thing will be dropped at the hearing. I require nothing from them: no apology, no financial gain. I just want to be left alone to go my own way. But, of course, I will follow the advice of my attorneys. Whatever course of action they recommend, I will follow.”
Sims said hebelieves the breach of contract count will not hold up in court.
“I am puzzled by the breach of contract claim. I never signed a contract with CleanFish LLC. I did sign a contract in 2006 with CleanFish Inc., and that company has been dissolved,” Sims said.
Meanwhile, BVS has an outstanding counter-claim against CleanFish LLC, asking for unspecified financial damages as well as attorney fees, which could be resolved at the hearing later this month.
“I suspect the matter of attorney fees is something the judge wants the two sides to work out, if possible,” Sims said. ”We’d prefer for the whole thing to just go away. We are ready to drop it and move on. But, ultimately, the decision will be made by Cleanfish LLC. If they persist, we will defend ourselves very aggressively. We would rather drop the matter and go our separate ways."
CleanFish is focused on “continued growth and ensuring the health, safety, and financial well-being of our employees, suppliers, and customers” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moniz said.
The supplier is focusing more on “super-frozen” seafood, in response to "the changing needs of foodservice for predictability and cost control, as well as consumer desire to stock up with food at home,” CleanFish LLC Director of Marketing and Communications Alisha Lumea told SeafoodSource.
"A particular highlight is being able to bring a shipment of super-frozen portions from our partner ChalkStream Trout in the United Kingdom,” Lumea said.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has championed Chalkstream as part of a campaign to aid British artisan farmers, Lumea noted.
"We're delighted to be able to offer this fish in the U.S.,” Lumea said.
Photo courtesy of Buena Vista Seafood