• April 3, 2014

Update (April 3, 2014): As the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in his 1943 inspirational essay, Bean and Nothingness, “Bean there. Done that.” Defendant Chippewa Valley Bean Company invoked the “first field” rule to keep its beanfield war in Wisconsin. The plaintiff in the second-filed Minnesota case, Hubbard Prairie Bean, should have seed that coming, n’est-ce pas? Buh-bye bean war

Nightshade BerriesOriginal post (March 25, 2014): (under subject line: You Got My Beans, Gimme My Cabbage (?)): Phytolacca Americana (pictured here) is more commonly known as American Pokeweed, Virginia poke, American nightshade, cancer jalap, coakum, garget, inkberry, pigeon berry, pocan, pokeroot, pokeweed, pokeberry, redweed, scoke, red ink plant and chui xu shang lu (in Chinese medicine (美国美洲商陆)).

Some of the plant’s many aliases are ominous (“American nightshade,” or “cancer jalap”); others seem cute or benign (“inkberry” or “pigeon berry”). But the menacing names are more accurate. These pretty little berries can kill a person.

This is why Chippewa Valley Bean had a problem with Hubbard Prairie Bean Company’s kidney beans that Chippewa Valley Bean bought to sell to third parties and why Chippewa Valley Bean is not falling over itself to pay Hubbard Prairie in full for Hubbard Prairie’s kidney beans. Chippewa Valley was contacted by the customer (in France) who reported that toxic nightshade berries had been discovered in Hubbard Prairie Bean kidney bean shipments. Chippewa Valley undertook its own investigation which, it concluded, supported the French finding of poison berries ‘midst the beans.

Hubbard Bean’s “statement of the case” manages to go on for about two pages without a hint of coakum-spiced beans. The closest that Hubbard gets is reference to “a problem that arose between [Chippewa] and the French.” (It has been a while since I have read 18th-19th century English literature but I have a vague sense that the “French problem” was a discrete way of describing venereal conditions that wayward Brits would bring home as souvenirs from their continental getaways. (To this day, it would appear that the British still feel that the French have a particular knack for the sack.))

But I digress.

The point is that Chippewa Bean and Hubbard Prairie Bean have apparently opened three lines of battle, that is, at least three separate lawsuits, and it seems that all of these ultimately might collapse into an arbitration, yet another proceeding, as provided for under the bean companies’ contract.

In previous posts, I have questioned whether American businesses are truly better off litigating such disputes, when they seem to be based on factual, empirical, verifiable issues (“do the bean shipments include poisonous berries or not?”). Should they not just sit down together and seek a consensus of whether the problem exists, whether the contract or underlying law places responsibility on one side or the other for such a problem, and, finally, if the law does apportion responsibility, can’t the parties work as one to calculate/negotiate what the cost (if any) is that has to be shifted from one party to the other?

Do these businesses really expect that fighting this legal battle on four fronts (or more) is somehow going to help anyone other than the companies’ lawyers?

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