Beer wholesaler finds out that timely objecting to an invoice can be the difference between not paying and having a court order payment.
The case, Stardom Brands LLC v. SKI Wholesale Beer Corp. (link to opinion) revolved around a dispute over the purchase of pallets of beer.
The Plaintiff is an importer of Slavutich beer. The defendants are wholesalers. The plaintiff beer importer asserted that the defendant beer wholesaler orally agreed to purchase two shipping containers of Slavutich beer each holding 1,500 cases of beer. The plaintiff beer importer claimed that it imported the beer but the beer wholesaler only paid for one half of one shipment.
After the beer importer sued to get paid on the other ¾ of the price owed, the defendant wholesaler alleged that it only agreed to pay for 1,200 cases of beer (shipped in a different fashion than how the importer shipped it (pallet loaded v. floor loaded); the difference costing it more money to unload) and that it never agreed to purchase a second container. The beer wholesaler asserted that it agreed to store the second container of beer in its warehouse for the plaintiff importer because the beer importer was new to the business and had nowhere to store the beer.
The beer importer produced two invoices for $24,690 each, one dated from June 2012 and one from July 2012 and a copy of a check from the wholesaler for $12,345. At trial the defendant beer wholesaler reiterated it had paid for the one half of the first container, but that it had only wanted 1,200 cases of beer and that the floor loaded beer required much more work to unload than the pallet loaded beer they had ordered. The trial court found for the defendantson both the first issue about the half payment being warranted on account of the over-shipment of beer and the difference in loading the beer, and on the second issue finding that the wholesaler’s testimony was credible that it only intended to store the beer for the beer importer.
The plaintiff appealed and the appellate court reversed on the first issue applying a theory of “account stated” and determining that the defendant wholesaler should have paid that price on the remaining balance for the first order because it had never raised an issue about the over-shipment or the method of loading until the lawsuit and never raised any other objections to the invoice and paid half of it.
The Takeaway: The court’s reasoning may help brewers and wholesalers in deciding whether they want to object to invoices in a thorough manner if there is an issue with the shipment of beer as remaining silent and making partial payment could create a similar problem:
We agree with the plaintiff that the Supreme Court erred in dismissing the cause of action to recover on an account stated with respect to the invoice dated June 6, 2012. An account stated is an agreement between parties to an account based upon prior transactions between them with respect to the correctness of the account items and balance due … An agreement may be implied where a defendant retains bills without objecting to them within a reasonable period of time, or makes partial payment on the account … At trial, the plaintiff established that the defendants received the first invoice and made partial payment on it. While the defendants claim that the number of cases of beer and manner of shipping did not conform with their order, there is no evidence in the record that they raised that objection prior to the commencement of this lawsuit, or that they ever disputed the invoice. Accordingly, the evidence presented at trial warranted a determination in the plaintiff’s favor in the principal sum of $12,345 on the cause of action to recover on an account stated based on the invoice dated June 6, 2012.