LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Maxim Marketing Corporation (http://www.max4snax.com/) won the first round of its legal battle against national retailer Trader Joe’s Company (http://www.traderjoes.com/) and international food giant ConAgra Foods, Inc. (http://www.conagrafoods.com/). Judge Mark Mooney of the Los Angeles Superior Court denied Trader Joe’s motion to compel arbitration in the case brought by Maxim Marketing of Aliso Viejo, CA against Trader Joe’s of Monrovia, CA and ConAgra Foods of Omaha, NE.
In denying Trader Joe’s motion to compel arbitration, Judge Mooney found that Maxim’s claims against co-defendant ConAgra for the alleged conspiracy to cut Maxim out of the peanut butter filled pretzel market were so intertwined with Maxim’s claims against Trader Joe’s that it would be unfair and impractical to sever Maxim’s claims against the two defendants.
Judge Mooney also denied Trader Joe’s request to seal the Master Vendor Agreement, which Trader Joe’s contends governs its relationship with Maxim. Judge Mooney found that Trader Joe’s did not make a sufficient showing that the document should be kept from the public record.
In January 2014, Maxim sued Trader Joe’s and ConAgra alleging that the two companies had conspired to eliminate Maxim as Trader Joe’s supplier of peanut butter filled pretzels. The suit (case number BC 533822) includes claims for breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations and violation of California antitrust law. Starting in the late 1980’s, Maxim began supplying Trader Joe’s with this popular snack item and continued to supply them for 25 years. As noted in the complaint, in the latter part of 2013, ConAgra cancelled its contract to make peanut butter filled pretzels for Maxim, and Trader Joe’s cancelled its 25 year-long agreement to buy peanut butter filled pretzels from Maxim. Immediately, Trader Joe’s began buying the same peanut butter filled pretzels, which are made using Maxim’s proprietary formula, directly from ConAgra as stated in the lawsuit. Maxim is asking for at least $60 million in damages.