Breuninger has asked for more than $10,000 in compensatory damages, more than $100,000 in punitive damages, and court costs.
In addition to saying that the dairies interfered with current and prospective customers, Breuninger alleges that the three firms defamed it. The alleged rumors "discredited, damaged and harmed" Breuninger's business reputation and caused financial loss, the suit says. The three dairies named in the suit are not related, said Kenneth Rosenthal, a lawyer for Johanna Farms.
Rosenthal declined to comment on the suit yesterday, saying he had not seen it. A woman who answered the telephone at Balford Farms said that according to business policy, the company could make no comment. A representative at Spring Valley Farms could not be reached for comment.
According to the suit, representatives from the three dairies told at least 13 current or prospective Breuninger customers to buy their milk and dairy products from their companies because Breuninger was about to fold. Six customers were lost because of rumors, according to the suit. They included a hospital, a diner and three convenience stores, it says. The loss of the contracts cost the dairy a total of $1,627 per month in profit, according to the suit.
The representatives of the three dairies also approached several prospective Breuninger customers with the same rumor, the suit says. Those businesses included two nursing homes and two hospitals that act as purchasers for 18 other hospitals, the suit says. Kevin T. Fogerty, Breuninger's attorney, declined to comment yesterday. Breuninger was incorporated in 1932.