Jurors assigned blame to both sides in a years-long contract dispute between two farming giants over pistachios.
But it was the Assemi Brothers’ farming cooperative that ultimately walked away a $27 million winner on Wednesday.
It took a little more than a day for jurors in the Fresno County Superior Court case to decide the legal fight between Touchstone Pistachios and The Wonderful Company.
Jurors awarded Wonderful $12 million in damages while also awarded the Assemis $38.8 million.
“We are pleased with the verdict. The verdict is very substantial in our favor and it vindicates the arguments we were making, we’re pleased and satisfied with the verdict and thank the jury for their efforts,” said Jim Bennett, attorney for the Assemis and partner with the Norton Law Firm PC.
Said GV Wire Publisher Darius Assemi, who was part of the lawsuit: “I’m grateful to the jury for giving up over two months of their time to attend to this complicated issue, and I’m grateful for their verdict.”
A Wonderful representative said the company intended to appeal the jury’s awards to the Assemi brothers.
“We are pleased the jury recognized that the Assemis breached their grower contracts with Wonderful and by the jury’s decision to award Wonderful nearly $12 million in damages, said Seth Oster, chief corporate affairs officer with The Wonderful Company.
“We believe the decisions they reached on three other co-op claims, however, are flawed and not supported by the evidence presented. Wonderful acted in good faith at all times, as has been the practice throughout its decades in business, and has always met its obligations with its growers. We intend to appeal.”
Jurors Side with Assemis on All But One Argument
The owners of Touchstone — Farid, Darius, and Farshid Assemi — sued Stewart Resnick and The Wonderful Co. in 2019 for withholding a multi-million dollar bonus they claimed they should have been paid.
The Assemis had once belonged to a farming cooperative with Wonderful. In 2018, Farid told Resnick they were leaving the co-op to start their own processing company — Touchstone.
The Assemi Brothers also sued Wonderful for not paying co-op members the same price for pistachios.
Jurors sided with the Assemis on claims that Wonderful underpaid the Assemis.
Resnick counter-sued the Assemis for not delivering their 2019 crop and for allegedly breaking a handshake deal regarding the sale of so-called “super” pistachio trees. The deal, as Resnick saw it, required the Assemis to continue delivering crops for another 10 years.
However, Bennett and the Assemis argued that the handshake deal was made up.
Jurors ruled for the Assemis on that claim. But the jury also awarded Wonderful damages for profits lost due to the non-delivery of pistachio and almond crops in 2019.
The trial lasted two months.