Federal judge grants partial summary judgment in food fight between Bloomin Brands and Mr. Mudbug

By Karen Kidd | Apr 16, 2018

Bloomin Brands isn't getting everything it wants as it fights a lawsuit brought by Mr. Mudbug Inc. in a several-years-long food fight over the end of a business relationship that went sour in 2014.

NEW ORLEANS — Bloomin Brands isn't getting everything it wants as it fights a lawsuit brought by Mr. Mudbug Inc. in a several-years-long food fight over the end of a business relationship that went sour in 2014.

On April 5, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, on the bench in Louisiana's Eastern District, partially granted Bloomin Brand's summary judgment on the remaining portions of Mr. Mudbug's open account claim in her 10-page order.

At issue in the case, Mr. Mudbug claims to have expanded its facilities to comply with its contractual agreement with Bloomin Brands, according to Milazzo's order. 

"For a period of approximately eight years, the parties maintained a business relationship in which [Mr. Mudbug] produced pre-prepared foods for [Bloomin Brands]," Milazzo said in the order. "[Mr. Mudbug] alleges that it expanded its production facilities twice to accommodate [Bloomin Brands]' orders, particularly in response to what [Mr. Mudbug] alleges was a contract to supply 28 million pounds of salad dressings to [Bloomin Brands]... However, for reasons that are disputed, [Bloomin Brands] began to award fewer contracts to [Mr. Mudbug] following the expansions. By December of 2014, the business relationship had been terminated entirely."

Mr. Mudbug claims that when the business relationship ended, it also was left on the hook for invoices totaling almost $242,670. Mr. Mudbug filed suit in state court against Bloomin Brands over the invoices and later claimed breach of contract, detrimental reliance and bad faith over the salad dressing "and the resulting lost profits and expansion costs incurred," Milazzo said in the order. Bloomin Brands lated removed the case to federal court.

"The court dismissed [Mr. Mudbug]'s bad-faith claims with prejudice," Milazzo said.

Bloomin Brands, based in Tampa, is a large casual dining company that owns more than 1,400 restaurants in 49 states and 21 countries, including Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, according to the company's website. Mr. Mudbug, along with 12 Seasons Catering, is a fine food company with a mission to "provide outstanding service and exceptional cuisine," according to its website.

In a previous motion for summary judgment, Milazzo dismissed Mr. Mudbug's contract and detrimental reliance claims for lack of evidence and issued summary judgment in favor of Bloomin Brands on Mr. Mudbug's open account claim. 

"[Bloomin Brands] produced evidence that it previously rejected 775 cases of lobster bisque and 737 cases of crab stuffing for poor quality," Milazzo said in the most recent order. "Because [Mr. Mudbug] produced no evidence that it disputed the rejections at the time, the court granted summary judgment to [Bloomin Brand] denying [Mr. Mudbug]'s claim as [to] those cases of product. The court also granted summary judgment denying [Mr. Mudbug]'s claim with regard to the Magic Spice, Tangy Tomato item on the invoices because [the] plaintiff waived payment for that ingredient."

In its latest motion for summary judgment, Bloomin Brands provided evidence that "it also rejected the remainder of the finished food products appearing on the invoices, that [Mr. Mudbug] waived payment for the invoiced raw ingredients and that [Mr. Mudbug] cannot produce any evidence that [Bloomin Brands] is liable for the 'miscellaneous deductions' invoice item," according to Milazzo's decision.

Bloomin Brands also objected to Mr. Mudbug's attorney's fees claim. Although Mr. Mudbug conceded the attorney's fees claim, it continued to oppose the rest of Bloomin' Brands motion for summary judgment. However, Milazzo granted the motion in part.

"[Mr. Mudbug]'s claim on [an] open account is dismissed with prejudice with respect to the lobster bisque, crab stuffing, kid mac, creolaise, miscellaneous deductions and attorney's fees," Milazzo said in the order. "[Mr. Mudbug]'s claim for dot seasoning, wine and mustard remains."

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