California-based multistate operator MedMen claimed victory on Tuesday in a high-profile marijuana industry trial that pitted the MSO against its former chief financial officer, who sued the company in state court claiming he’d been forced to resign because of a toxic work environment.
According to Law360, the jury on Monday found for MedMen, the defendant in the case, and awarded zero penalties to ex-CFO James Parker, who had hoped to win up to $24 million in damages for breach of contract.
The jury also found no fault with the actions of MedMen co-founders Adam Bierman and Andrew Modlin, who were put under a media spotlight by the claims Parker made in his lawsuit.
Parker’s lawsuit, filed in early 2019 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleged Bierman and Modlin made racist and homophobic comments while running MedMen.
Parker also leveled a laundry list of other salacious accusations against the two men, including cocaine and alcohol use as well as “profligate spending” on luxury items such as a “special order pearl white Escalades” for Bierman.
But those allegations clearly carried little weight with the jury.
Instead, the jury decided in favor of MedMen regarding some of the cross-complaints the company filed against Parker.
Jurors also found that Parker was the one in breach of contract when he left the company in 2018 and that he had taken proprietary information with him, Law360 reported.
However, the jury found Parker didn’t cause any harm to the company and declined to award damages to MedMen.
MedMen trumpets victory
Regardless, MedMen took a victory lap in a news release announcing the verdict.
“We are thrilled that the jury concluded that James Parker is not the victim here, but the perpetrator, and that MedMen owes no damages,” Michael Serruya, the Medmen’s newly minted chair and interim CEO, said in the release, blasting Parker’s lawsuit as “false allegations.”
“We are pleased to put this chapter to rest and focus wholly on taking this company to the next level – leveraging the strength of the MedMen brand and consumer experience to expand across the United States, Canada and internationally.”
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Parker and his attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
A phone message requesting comment left with the attorney for Bierman and Modlin, Nigel Burns, was not immediately returned Tuesday.
But Bierman told Law360, “Now with the record about (Parker’s) lies cemented by this verdict, I think the real story about MedMen and the birth of this industry can come out from behind the last three years of this guy’s baseless lawsuit.”
“(Parker) clearly threw anything he could fabricate up against the wall to see if it would stick,” Bierman told Law360. “I think the problem is that the jury found that none of it was true.”
Bierman said the verdict was “vindicating for me, and it’s something that I’ve really patiently been waiting for.”
‘No harm all around’
The jury’s forewoman, Natalie Lowis, told Law360 the jurors didn’t find Parker’s allegations credible, particularly his claim of having to quit because of a toxic work environment, and that he feared litigation stemming from alleged criminal actions at the company while he was CFO.
“Ultimately, we just felt that there was no harm all around,” Lowis told Law360. “I just didn’t really find it very credible or that (Parker) suffered anything.
“It seemed, when you tipped the scales, I just believed the company more than him.”
The trial’s outcome was no doubt being watched in Canada, particularly by Tilray.
In August, the Canadian producer spent nearly $166 million to acquire a majority of the debt MedMen owes to New York hedge fund Gotham Green Partners and other funds.
The deal gives Tilray a shot to acquire MedMen in the future as well as entry into the U.S. marijuana market in the event of federal legalization.
John Schroyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.