Feuding Hoosier Momma owners settle lawsuits

What looked destined to become a knock-down, drag-out legal battle among the owners of Hoosier Momma LLC has quietly been settled, which has led to the departure of Erin Edds, the founder who concocted the popular Bloody Mary mix.

Edds in October filed the first suit, charging the other two partners, Kimberly Cranfill and Catherine Hill, were wrongly keeping financial records from her. An exhibit in that case revealed they had requested that Edds “cease all activities on behalf of the company.”

The following month, Brownsburg-based Hoosier Momma sued Edds, accusing her of acting on her own and without authority in numerous ways that had damaged the business.

The suit—which alleged breach of fiduciary duty and interfering with business relationships—charged that over the summer Edds changed Hoosier Momma’s social media passwords, locking out her partners, then refused to relinquish control.

It also alleged Edds had accessed Cranfill’s password-protected email address and had “inappropriate” communications with one of Hoosier Momma’s distributors, “which threatened to cease selling Hoosier Momma’s products as a result.”

Attorneys for Edds had argued she “consistently and conscientiously” fulfilled her obligations to Hoosier Momma.

“I can tell you that Ms. Edds will be pursuing additional legal action against other members of Hoosier Momma,” B.J. Brinkerhoff, a Katz & Korin attorney representing Edds, told IBJ in early December.

But instead, the parties reached a resolution during a Dec. 29 settlement conference, court records show. As a result, both cases were dismissed this month.

“I cannot shed any further light on the resolution of the parties, except to say that all matters have been resolved under terms that are confidential, and Ms. Edds is no longer affiliated with Hoosier Momma,” Deborah Pollack-Milgate, a Barnes & Thornburg attorney representing the company, said in an email.

Edds wrote on her Facebook page that she left Hoosier Momma on Dec. 30. Her attorney, Brinkerhoff, told IBJ: “She is very pleased with the resolution and is looking forward to announcing her next project soon.”

Edds had been Hoosier Momma’s largest shareholder, with 34-percent ownership, from its founding in August 2010 until late 2011, when she sold 10 percent to Cranfill and Hill, who each previously held 33 percent.

Brinkerhoff and Pollack-Milgate confirmed that in conjunction with Edds’ departure, she sold her remaining ownership interest to her partners.

It’s not clear whether the falling out has affected Hoosier Momma’s breakneck expansion. The company’s original and spicy Bloody Mary mixes continue to enjoy wide availability, with bottles sold via liquor distributors in nine states and through grocery distributors in other parts of the country.

The venture could hardly have started more modestly. In January 2010, Edds, who was running the local foods purveyor Country Mouse City Mouse, received a call from an event planner looking for Indiana products to include in Super Bowl-themed gift baskets. (The Colts were preparing to play in Super Bowl XLIV at the time.)

Edds decided to use Indiana tomatoes to make a vegan, gluten-free mixer. “Tomatoes are huge, and everybody does salsa,” Edds told IBJ in 2011. “Everybody does hot sauce. So what is somebody actually going to use in a hospitality basket in their suite at the Super Bowl? Bloody Mary mix. It’s the morning of [the game]. It’s perfect.”

The mix quickly became a cult favorite, and by mid-2010 Edds had teamed with Cranfill and Hill, who provided capital and business experience. Distribution deals soon followed, and the mix now is available in such chains as Sam’s Club, Kroger and Meijer.

 

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