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Bryant Family Vineyards sued their financial consultant on July 31. The action came just one day after the consultant filed an amended complaint in the case.
As first reported by Wine Industry Insight on June 3, the consultant -- Lauren Ridenhour -- alleged that the winery may be experiencing financial problems.
Her original complaint, filed in a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, also contended that she had been fired because of her objection to an inflated financial statement being submitted to a federal lending institution.
Ridenhour's amended complaint filed on June 30, is not substantially different from the June 3 filing. It mostly offers more specific examples of the issues which she said were reasons for her termination (See the list of exhibits to the amended complaint below).
The amended complaint seemed designed to answer questions in Bryant's June response to dismiss Ridenhour’s complaint which indicated that the financial consultant had not provided adequate details to back up her complaint.
Bryant fires back with a scorched-earth tirade
Now, Bryant is firing back with a breach of contract lawsuit asking for "At least $1 million" plus damages for Ridenhour's alleged violation of a confidentiality agreement which was filed as an exhibit to the complaint.
The breach of contract complaint said that Ridenhour was terminated because she was "incompetent" and a "fraud." While the introductory paragraphs of lawsuits are often overstated and polemical, this one leads with a lengthy tantrum long on vituperative insults and insinuations but lacking any actual facts or specifics.
Bryant's previous, more legally reasoned response to Ridenhour's original complaint had stated that, "Ms. Ridenhour is a disgruntled ex-employee of the winery who was dismissed."
"Irreparable damage ... lost profits and harm to reputation and goodwill"
According to the complaint:
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Media campaign ... On information and belief?
The Bryant complaint alleges that after Ridenhour filed her lawsuit, "when the Bryants still refused to cave to Ridenhour’s demands, Ridenhour and her surrogates facilitated press coverage of the (largely false) allegations in the lawsuit.
According to the Bryant filing:
"Ridenhour hired a lawyer to make (largely false) claims against Mr. and Mrs. Bryant. When the Bryants refused to comply with Ridenhour’s demands, Ridenhour doubled down, not only filing a public lawsuit, but loading the complaint with confidential Winery information (as well as other alleged Winery information that is misleading or demonstrably false). In so doing, Ridenhour clearly and deliberately breached the Confidentiality Agreement she had entered into with the Winery."
In a follow-up section of the filing, the Bryant complaint alleged that:
"On information and belief, Ridenhour or those acting on her behalf contacted various press outlets, including winery industry publications, in an effort to spread the defamatory statements about the Winery.
Indeed, in one such publication, Ridenhour is quoted as standing by the allegations in the lawsuit, saying: “I think the facts as expressed in my legal documents make a compelling case.”
That quote appeared in Wine Industry Insight on the day we broke the article. Contrary to the complaint's assertions, Wine Industry Insight never received any documents or any information from Ridenhour or anyone connected with her.
Instead, we keep track of federal legal and regulatory actions affecting the wine industry, Wine Industry Insight relies on a machine-learning algorithm developed by publisher Lewis Perdue that relies on its PACER federal court account, other court sources, search engines and a custom search spider.
The only other similar article resulting from this media effort was a "Napa lifestyle" piece more than two weeks later from in the San Francisco Chronicle. What's more, the Chronicle learned of the lawsuit from Wine Industry Insight. See email screen capture, below.
No credit was subsequently given by Mobley.
Previous Wine Industry Insight Coverage
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Full court filings for premium Subscribers
Bryant v. Ridenhour - Complaint + Exhibit
Bryant v Ridenhour Complaint 073019
Bryant v Ridenhour Complaint Exhibit A 073019
Ridenhour v. Bryant - Amended Complaint + Exhibits
Ridenhour Complaint Amended 073119
Ridenhour Complaint Amended Exhibit A 073119
Ridenhour Complaint Amended Exhibit B 073119
Ridenhour Complaint Amended Exhibit C 073119
Ridenhour Complaint Amended Exhibit D 073119
Ridenhour Complaint Amended Exhibit E 073119
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