Fox Litigation Team Secures $21M Arbitration Award in Washington State ‘Beer Battle’

January 3, 2018 – Press Releases

Fox Rothschild LLP litigators Gavin W. Skok and Bryan J. Case won a $21 million arbitration award for three beer distributors in a dispute arising from the termination of their rights to distribute Pabst Brewing Company-owned beer brands in Washington State.

In February 2017, the three distributors – The Odom Corporation, Marine View Beverage and C. Stein Distributing – sued Pabst in federal court for breach of contract after Pabst abruptly terminated their distributorships and transferred the distribution rights to a competing distributor, Columbia Distributing. 

At the same time, the three distributors commenced arbitration against Columbia under a Washington law that allows terminated distributors to recover the fair market value of terminated distribution rights from the successor distributor.  Following a multi-day arbitration hearing, which featured several beer industry legends as expert witnesses, the arbitrator awarded the three distributors over $21 million in fair market value for the terminated distribution rights, which is the entire amount of compensation they were seeking.

Litigation continues in federal court in Seattle where the three distributors are seeking additional damages from Pabst.  The three distributors already won a significant victory in those cases when U.S. District Judge Robert Leighton of the Western District of Washington ruled in the distributors’ favor on the issue of liability, finding that Pabst breached their distribution contract and that Washington law did not give Pabst a right to terminate their distributorships without cause. All three cases are set for trial in December 2018 on the issue of damages owed by Pabst.