Former Allen Canning principal ordered to pay nearly $157K

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,875 views 

A Benton County judge has ordered the principal of a former family-owned business in Siloam Springs to pay a Prairie Grove farmer nearly $157,000, including court costs, in a breach of contract lawsuit.

Circuit Judge Xollie Duncan ordered Nick Allen on Aug. 3 to pay $156,765 in costs and attorney fees. Allen was the fourth generation to work in a leadership role for family-owned Allens Inc. The company, which dates back to 1926 and made canned and frozen vegetables, filed a Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy in Fayetteville in October 2013, acknowledging a debt of more than $280 million.

Judge Duncan’s order stems from a May 2019 civil suit filed by Dave Sargent of Prairie Grove, a retired dairy farmer who is now a significant vegetable supplier to Walmart Inc. The complaint initially listed Allen’s brother (Josh Allen) and parents (Roderick and Teresa), but the court dismissed them as defendants in October 2019.

In the complaint, Sargent said Allen hoped to get a contract for his family’s farm in western Benton County as a Walmart vegetable grower. Allen asked Sargent in September 2015 to form a partnership to get the Allen’s foot in the door, promising Sargent a share of any profits from a deal with Walmart.

They formed a partnership — the entities were All-Ag LLC and Sargent Farms — and Sargent negotiated a $2 million produce contract with Walmart. Sargent said he never received his share of the $218,320 in profits (roughly $68,000) and other costs incurred for unreturned farm equipment and farm supplies provided by Sargent.

Judge Duncan found Allen in default earlier this year. Sargent filed the case originally as a “pro se” matter.

“It took almost three years to file because Dave is not a litigious individual by nature and he wanted and waited for the Allen’s to do the right thing,” Fayetteville attorney Greg Payne, Sargent’s lawyer in the matter, said in a statement. “We proceeded against the only defendant in default since we were concerned with collectability and the liability of Nick Allen was most certain. Given the evidence and the fact that the Allen’s failed to fulfill their contractual obligations to Mr. Sargent, Judge Duncan made her best effort to award an amount of damages that could be determined with reasonable certainty. We’re happy with that.”

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