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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Idaho Court Affirms Most of Trout Growers’ Award

(CN) - The Idaho Supreme Court upheld a $446,099 damage award granted to trout growers who claimed a hatchery prematurely terminated their contract. However, the justices instructed the lower court to reconsider its $266,294 award for the last two years of the contract.

The state high court said it was not clear whether the district court took into account increased fish mortality rates during years six and seven of the contract.

Clear Lakes Trout Co. had agreed to supply Rodney and Clara Griffith, owners of the Boswell Farms fish farm, with enough fingerling trout to grow "up to 2 million pounds live weight" trout each year, and then buy back the fish back when they reached market size.

However, the market for trout plummeted after Sept. 11, 2001, and Clear Lakes' clients demanded bigger fish. As a result, the hatchery bought back fewer fish from the Griffiths. In 2002 Clear Lakes agreed to extend the contract for one year, but later terminated the deal after only five years.

The Griffiths sued the hatchery for breach of contract and were awarded $446,099 for years four and five of the contract, and $266,294 for the last two years.

The Griffiths claimed the $266,294 award was erroneously based on output figures from years four and five, after Clear Lakes had breached the contract by decreasing the amount of fish it bought back. The growers requested an award based on the second and third years of the contract, when demand remained high.

The state high court upheld the $446,099 award, but remanded the final award with instructions to consider the increased mortality rates of the fish, which would have affected profit during the last two years of the contract.

The court also concluded that the lower court had properly awarded the Griffiths attorney fees after remand.

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