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Jurors grant Maris family $50 million.

AP--Anheuser-Busch must pay the family of baseball great Roger Mails $50 million for improperly taking away a beer distributorship, a jury ruled Friday.

However, jurors said they meant to award the family nearly three times that amount-- $139 million--but were confused by the judge's instructions.

"Three months we worked to get to a conclusion, and then the jury's wishes were not followed through with," juror Maria Romero said. "We took painstaking time to come to a figure and our wishes were not followed."

Jury forewoman Amy Richard said the decision to award $139 million was unanimous.

"We worked many hours to come up with that figure," she said.

The jurors were told to only consider the market value of the distributorship and not lost sales figures, which jurors estimated to be $89.7 million. The Marises' attorneys said the family will appeal the award.

The decision in Alachua County Circuit Court ended the trial pitting the world's largest brewer against the family of the former home run king.

Pat Maris, Roger Maris' widow, said after the ruling: "I just thank God for all the lawyers who came into our lives."

Anheuser-Busch had countersued the family for $8.6 million, but jurors denied the brewer those claims.

A spokesman for Anheuser-Busch said the company would appeal the decision. "We're disappointed by the jury's verdict," John E. Jacob, executive vice president of Anheuser-Busch, said in a prepared statement. "The evidence clearly shows that our termination of Mans Distributing was proper. The company had serious ongoing deficiencies"

Patrick Schumann, an analyst for Edward Jones in St. Louis, said the decision could result in the brewery tightening its relationships with distributorships and clearly explaining contractual obligations.

The Maris family sought $300 million from Anheuser-Busch for taking away a lucrative beer distributorship in 1997 the family had operated in Gainesville and Ocala for 29 years. The lawsuit charged the brewer with breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealings.

"It's been a long fight, but they knew it was right and they fought for what was right," Maris family attorney Willie Gary said.

The Maris family plans to sue the brewer for defamation next week.

During the trial, attorneys for the Maris family claimed Anheuser-Busch wanted to take over the Maris distributorship so the company could give the contract to family friends of chairman August Busch III. The St. Louis-based brewer offered $20 million for the distributorship before taking it away.

Busch attorneys, however, said such a claim was nonsense.

Anheuser-Busch said it terminated the contract because of Maris Distributing's fraudulent conduct of repackaging outdated beer and falsifying records to make it look like they were visiting customers when they weren't. Anheuser-Busch said it also received several complaints from clients about the Maris family's careless attitude, which was "indifference bordering on arrogance," attorneys for the brewer said.

The Maris family lost a previous case in federal court.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Roger Maris family; Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 13, 2001
Words:488
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