Royal Ridge president hopes for 'good relationship going forward'

By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI

Capital Press

A California-based food marketing firm has agreed to pay nearly $1.7 million to a vertically integrated fruit company in Central Washington as part of a legal settlement.

Royal Ridge Fruits, a farmer-owned processing company with facilities in Othello and Royal City, Wash., filed suit against SkylarHaley of Alamo, Calif., earlier this year for breach of contract and other allegations.

Owned by a family of orchardists, Royal Ridge dries cherries, blueberries, apples and other fruit and provides cold storage services to other growers.

In November 2008, the company contracted to sell dried fruit directly to SkylarHaley, a marketer that supplies mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Costco with products under its Stoneridge Orchards label.

In its legal complaint, Royal Ridge claimed SkylarHaley ceased paying invoices in March 2009 and then made false statements that convinced the processor to continue sending shipments through June.

According to the complaint, SkylarHaley CEO Perry Abadir told Royal Ridge he could not make the payments because he was buying out another partner's share in the marketing firm.

The complaint also alleged SkylarHaley improperly distributed the plaintiff's dried fruit to several affiliated companies, which were named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

SkylarHaley denied these allegations in court documents, claiming it had stopped paying invoices to Royal Ridge because the dried fruit was of defective quality, which hurt the marketing firm's reputation and finances.

After several months of litigation, SkylarHaley agreed to pay about $1.7 million plus interest to Royal Ridge, according to court documents. The deal was approved by a federal judge on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

Abadir could not be reached for comment, but Kevin Dorsing, president of Royal Ridge, said he hoped the two companies will put the episode behind them and resume doing business.

"We're very optimistic we'll work something out and have a good relationship going forward," Dorsing said.

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