Attorney says unity among plaintiffs helped their cause
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
The Scotts lawn and garden company has settled all legal disputes with Washington seed processors and farmers over payments for Kentucky bluegrass seed.
While specific terms remain confidential, the deals resolve lawsuits filed in state and federal courts two years ago.
"It concludes all litigation between the grower community, seed processors and Scotts," said Matt Turetsky, attorney for Scotts, of the most recent settlement.
Farmers were prepared to go to trial against Scotts and believed they would have prevailed, but they felt the settlement offered a fair result, said Pete Erbland, an attorney representing nearly 50 affected growers.
"I think the reason the farmers were able to get a fair result was because they stuck together," Erbland said. "If they had not stuck together, it would have been difficult for them to shoulder the burden."
In 2010, Scotts filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Seeds Inc., a processor in Tekoa, Wash., failed to perform an audit to confirm the "source, quality and identity" of the seed crops. It filed a similar lawsuit against another processor that was later settled.
Farmers soon filed their own lawsuit against Seeds and Scotts, claiming they were not paid for seed deliveries. A state judge later ruled that Scotts owed the farmers $7.5 million, but the dispute continued because growers claimed they were owed $2.4 million more in bonus payments.
Scotts settled the remaining dispute with the farmers last month and has now settled with Seeds, ending all litigation.
An audit found that Seeds had billed more money for seed than Scotts previously agreed to purchase, according to a recent letter sent to farmers by Brent Bolton, director of Scotts' grass seed supply chain.
"With these issues now concluded, we hope that we'll continue working together to grow our great industry and help enhance the lawns of millions and millions of families around the world," said Bolton.
Tim Esser, attorney for Seeds, said given the scale of the transactions between Scotts, processors and growers, it "is to be expected" that the audit would result in a correction.
Seeds is pleased to have resolved the matter and will continue to work in the grass seed industry, he said.