(UPDATED COVERAGE, Aug. 11) Two cranberry shippers are fighting each other over the way one has treated the other in an alleged smear campaign.
Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., Middleboro, Mass., charges Decas Cranberry of Carver, Mass., as well as a number of unnamed growers with orchestrating an “unlawful and malicious” smear campaign against Ocean Spray.
The Aug. 2 lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleges Decas falsely accuses the growers cooperative of harming the cranberry industry and was designed to damage Ocean Spray’s reputation and relationships with its customers and grower-owners.
The lawsuit further contends the unnamed growers solicited other cranberry growers — including Ocean Spray’s growers — not to work with Ocean Spray and become part of a lawsuit that claimed Ocean Spray was breaking federal antitrust laws.
In court documents, Ocean Spray claims Decas launched the campaign in 2009 through e-mails, blogs, websites, Facebook pages and YouTube videos.
Chuck Dillon, Decas’ president and chief executive officer, calls Ocean Spray’s action frivolous and said the suit was a preemptory strike against growers in Oregon, Wisconsin and Massachusetts who have been interested in bringing a class action antitrust lawsuit against Ocean Spray.
He denies running any smear campaign against Ocean Spray.
“It’s totally untrue,” Dillon said. “We have not said false things. We have not tried to gather together growers to go against Ocean Spray."
Dillon said Decas isn’t a part of the growers’ antitrust action because it has filed its own antitrust lawsuit against Ocean Spray.