(CN) - A Southern grocery store chain misappropriated an Alabama lettuce farmer's image to bolster its claims its produce is locally grown, the farmer claims in court.
In a complaint filed in the Mobile, Ala. circuit court, Micah Craine, who runs Craine Creek Farm, says Louisiana-based grocer Rouse's Enterprises, claiming it misappropriated his personality and likeness to burnish its own image.
Craine says that after Rouse expanded into the Mobile area last year, it negotiated an agreement through which the market would place weekly orders with his farm for certain hydroponically-grown specialty lettuces.
Rouse promotes itself as using local vendors and claims the policy has a greater economic impact on the communities in which it operates. Craine says he gladly entered into his deal with Rouse, believing it was in keeping with the company's stated "buy local" policy.
As part of the deal, the grocer took publicity photos of Craine, who "submitted to the use of his image if, and only if, Rouses engaged in regular and systematic purchases of specialty lettuce from Craine."
But Craine says before the first order had even been placed, Rouse began displaying "a giant publicity picture of Micah Craine in its produce department" in each of the new Mobile markets, along with Craine's name and that of Craine Creek Farm.
Ultimately, the store failed to live up to the agreement to regularly order lettuce from Craine, placing just four orders with the farmer altogether, the lawsuit says.
Despite this, Craine says, the store failed to discontinue its use of his image for months.
"Rouse's representatives assured Craine that it wanted to do business with Craine and that the image would be taken down. Rouses did neither," the lawsuit says.
To make things worse, the farmer says, the store stocked "an inferior grade" of lettuce and positioned it "directly beneath the his image, thereby leading customers to believe that the inferior lettuce offered in Rouses' produce departments was in fact Craine's produce."
The stores finally removed the photos of Craine on Dec. 3, 2014, months after he first complained about their use.
Craine seeks compensatory and punitive damages on claims Rouse misappropriated his personality, breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, conversion and negligent hiring.
He is represented by Clay Rossi and Jason Gerth of Gerth & Rossi LLC in Mobile.
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