BALTIMORE (CN) – A longtime provider of roasted peanuts to Oriole Park claims in court that lax quality controls by its farm suppliers led to a roasted mouse being sold to a spectator and the ensuing cancellation of the vendor’s contract.
In a nine-page federal complaint filed Wednesday, the plaintiff Barcelona Nut Company says it held a contract to be the ballpark’s exclusive supplier of in-shell roasted peanuts for more than 20 years, and that it benefited greatly from advertising that fact.
The company says typically it purchased large pallets of roasted peanuts from another supplier and repackaged them for sale.
The three defendants in the case, Hampton Farms, Severn Peanut Company and their parent company, the Meherrin Agricultural & Chemical Company, provided Barcelona with “grower services” that included roasting, packing and delivering peanuts.
Over the years, Barcelona Nut says in the complaint, it had some problems with the shipments it received, including the delivery of a pallet containing a bird, and of “several thousand pounds of peanuts … infested by bugs.”
Barcelona Nut says it returned the bug-infested shipment, and received assurances that new quality controls would be implemented to ensure that future shipments would be of the highest quality.
But on April 12, 2015, the complaint says, a patron at the ballpark purchased a bag of roasted peanuts from a Barcelona Nut vendor, only to find a small roasted mouse inside.
“The bag of Peanuts was roasted by Defendants and was sold by them to Barcelona Nut,” the complaint says. “Barcelona Nut in turn sold the bag of peanuts to a customer of the Orioles.”
Shortly thereafter, Delaware North Companies Sportservice, Inc., the food and beverage supplier to the ballpark, convinced the Orioles to cancel Barcelona Nut’s contract, saying it was responsible for the sale of the roasted mouse.
Delaware North then signed a contract directly with the defendants, making them the exclusive supplier of roasted peanuts to the Orioles.
Barcelona Nut claims the defendants intentionally interfered with its longstanding contract with the team, and seized on the roasted mouse incident as an “opportunity to supplant Plaintiff as the exclusive provider.”
“Defendants intentionally used their pre-existing relationship with Delaware North to undermine Plaintiff and cause it to suffer significant losses,” the complaint says.
Barcelona Nut is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 on claims of interference with contracts, unjust enrichment and negligence.
Representatives of the defendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.