Food

Phillips Lytle has significant experience working with companies that operate in the food industry. We provide our clients with expertise in a variety of corporate matters, product development, employment and labor issues, OSHA matters, federal and state litigation and mediations/arbitrations, regulatory compliance, food product label disputes, crisis planning and business continuity, and trademark matters. Additionally, we are well versed in standard of identity and regulatory issues within the dairy industry. In addition to our experience with the Pure Food and Drug Act and weights and measures issues, we have successfully represented dozens of food-related companies in matters that have assisted them in reaching their business goals.

  • Corporate – contract negotiating with vendors, clients and third parties, contract drafting, mergers and acquisitions
  • Intellectual Property – trademarks to patent matters
  • Crisis Planning and Response – product recalls, plant explosions, food contamination, incident response policy drafting and training
  • Franchise
  • Licensing
  • Employee Benefits
  • Labor & Employment
  • Food Product Label Litigation – standards of identity, class action, labeling disputes
  • Real Estate – real property transactions, leases, purchases
  • Environmental – contamination to evaluation
  • Transportation – food transportation and shipping issues and litigated matters
  • Insurance Coverage/Product Recall
  • Commercial Litigation – unfair competition claims, breach of warranty, breach of contract, government investigations, subpoenas, regulatory compliance
  • Products Liability – defending cases involving food contamination to personal injury
  • Bankruptcy

In addition, for more than 25 years, Phillips Lytle has served as New York State counsel for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (formerly the National Food Processors Association).

Specific examples of our food industry expertise by practice area include:

Corporate

  • Provided advice for one of the largest U.S. producers of Italian-American cheese on a number of regulatory issues including both federal and state standards of identity for its cheese products, weights and measures issues, and issues relating to labeling and federal and state facility inspection.
  • Rendered advice and review of contract documents including milk supply contracts, equipment contracts and agreements with customers and suppliers for one of the largest U.S. producers of Italian-American cheese.
  • Provide ongoing advice for a Western New York food service distributor and a specialty food blending and packaging company in connection with various matters including financing transactions, supply agreements, lease agreements and equipment purchasing transactions.

Intellectual Property

  • Provided general advice to one of the largest U.S. producers of Italian-American cheese regarding the protection of intellectual property, including trademarks, patents, trade dress and copyrights.
  • Represented clients with respect to the selection, protection and clearance of brand names for food products. We prosecute trademark applications and maintain trademark registrations, both domestically and worldwide. We regularly review product packaging for copyright and trademark issues and have advised clients with regard to third party claims for trademark and copyright infringement.

Crisis Planning and Response

  • Assisted a food product company with crisis planning in all aspects of the business and developing legally defensive incident response procedures whether responding to data breaches, cyber attacks, food contamination, product recalls, factory explosions and other crises.

Franchise

  • Represented a regional fast food franchiser with more than 40 outlets throughout New York State. 

Licensing

  • Represented a major regional supermarket chain with respect to obtaining licensing to serve beer, wine and liquor in their cafes and restaurants.
  • Represented numerous restaurants, nightclubs and liquor stores in matters pertaining to obtaining and maintaining their liquor licenses.

Employee Benefits

  • Provided advice to various food related companies in Western New York with respect to day-to-day employee benefit plan administrative matters, including COBRA.
  • Maintained retirement and welfare plan documentation compliance, including plan documents and summary plan descriptions, and addressing operational compliance issues for a large food manufacturer.
  • Represented an international food products corporation in drafting retirement plan and welfare benefit plan documentation and providing operational and administrative advice with respect to qualified and nonqualified 401k plans, defined benefit and incentive compensation plans and health and welfare benefit arrangements.

Labor & Employment

  • Represented a major manufacturer of ice cream and frozen desserts in employment and employee benefit matters including defense of discrimination charges before the EEOC and the New York State Division of Human Rights, OSHA advice and litigation, labor arbitrations, general employment counseling, and drafting plan documents for retirement and welfare benefit plans.
  • Represented the largest independently owned beer company in the United States in employment matters that included providing advice with regard to employment terminations and other employment issues, reviewing and revising employment policies and manuals, and defending the company in discrimination claims.
  • Provided advice on labor and employment issues for one of the leading producers of dairy products in New York State.
  • Represented a large international food manufacturer in defending administrative charges of discrimination before the EEOC, the New York State Division of Human Rights and the Fair Employment practice agencies in other states where it has facilities, including California and Wisconsin.
  • Reviewed and revised employee handbooks and policies.
  • Provided advice on FLSA and FMLA issues.

Food Product Label Litigation

  • Assisted food industry clients in evaluating legally compliant food label representations to class action litigations concerning food product claims.

Real Estate

  • Represented one of the largest U.S. producers of Italian-American cheese with the acquisition and disposition of numerous real property parcels in New York State, and assisted in other zoning and real estate regulatory issues.
  • Handled the sale and closing of a number of processing facilities in New York State for the world’s second largest food company.
  • Represented a retail food service chain in connection with the sale of a portfolio of leaseholds, subject to existing subleases, in Manhattan.
  • Provided advice to a privately held international food products corporation in connection with various types of real estate matters, particularly those involving leasing, sales and acquisitions.
  • Represented a major regional supermarket chain in numerous store locations including shopping center, freestanding and development properties throughout Upstate New York.
  • Represented a landlord/developer in connection with retail leases to a Chinese restaurant, a breakfast house and a diet center in a shopping center located in Long Island, New York.
  • Represented a landlord in connection with a restaurant lease located in Croton-on-the-Hudson, New York.

Environmental

  • Developed and wrote a complete environmental compliance manual for a multinational food group’s U.S.-based dairy processing facilities.
  • Represented a major grocery store chain in land use and zoning matters regarding the addition of gas stations to existing stores located across New York State.
  • Represented an international food products corporation on various environmental matters including those involving regulatory issues, permitting, environmental due diligence, and the coordination and assessment of Phase I and Phase II environmental investigations in connection with purchases and sales of its facilities. 

Transportation

  • Represented the world’s leading marketer of Concord and Niagara-based grape products in a matter that involved fraud committed by one of its employees who was receiving kickbacks from various trucking companies that were doing business with our client. As a result, the employee, the company’s insurance carrier were sued in multi-state litigation.

Insurance Coverage/Product Recall

  • Represented a privately held international food products corporation for losses sustained as a result of a product recall. We obtained coverage and an eventual $21 million verdict under a property, business income and additional expense policy for the loss of use of product, and the associated lost income and additional expenses involved in conducting the recall.

Commercial Litigation

  • Represented a manufacturer and distributor of bakery and food ingredients in a lawsuit against a bank to recover damages for breach of contract and related claims.
  • Represented the world’s leading marketer of Concord and Niagara-based grape products in a dispute over issues involving statutory construction, contract law, and federal and state constitutional issues concerning sewer charges with the Village of Westfield, New York, in which the company sought to pay user charges based on its actual use as opposed to capacity reserved for it.

Products Liability

  • Represented a broad range of food industry companies in the defense of products liability cases related to foreign materials, contamination, burns and poisoning.

Bankruptcy

  • Represented a cookie manufacturer in a successful reorientation of its business and completion of a Chapter 11 reorganization.
  • Represented the agent bank in one of the largest wholesale grocery and retail Chapter 11 cases.
  • Provided general advice and guidance to one of the largest U.S. producers of Italian-American cheese on credit-related issues, including guidance as to how to identify and deal with customers who may face financial issues.
  • Assisted one of the largest U.S. producers of Italian-American cheese in pursuing claims against insolvent and/or bankrupt customers, as well as defending avoidance claims asserted against the company in bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Represented multiple food manufacturers, processors and distributors in the collection of accounts receivable from trade debtors.
  • Represented multiple food industry manufacturers in Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 cases of their trade debtors across the country with respect to preparing, filing and serving proofs of claim, reclamation demands and motions for payment of administrative claims.
Food