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Jurors Side With Jack Daniel’s In Lemonade Mix Retrial

June 20, 1989

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) _ A retrial of a $13 million lawsuit over a Jack Daniel’s drink recipe for Lynchburg Lemonade concluded Tuesday with a jury verdict in favor of the whiskeymaker’s parent firm.

Former Huntsville lounge owner Tony Mason filed suit, claiming ownership of the recipe. But a Madison County Circuit Court jury deliberated just 40 minutes before ruling in favor of Brown Forman Distillers Corp. and against Mason.

Mason first sued over the Lynchburg Lemonade recipe in 1983, but the first trial ended with the jury awarding him only $1 when the judge instructed the panel it could only consider nominal damages. An appeals court then ruled punitive damages could also be considered, setting the stage for this month’s retrial.

Jurors quickly left the courtroom after jury foreman Roy Willis reported the verdict around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, ending a week of testimony involving dozens of witnesses and more than 125 items submitted as evidence.

Mason contended a Jack Daniel’s salesman, Winston Randle, visited his lounge in 1982 and promised him the company might use Mason and his band in a promotion if it decided to use the recipe.

Attorneys for Brown Forman and Randle conceded Randle visited Mason. But they said the version of Mason’s recipe that Randle received at Mason’s nightclub and turned over to company officials called for the use of lemon juice instead of the sweet-and-sour mix used in Jack Daniel’s whisky promotions.

The company argued that Mason didn’t have a trade secret on the drink recipe anyway, because he didn’t do much to protect the recipe other than inform employees ″not to tell anyone.″

But according to testimony, some 25 employees at Mason’s lounge, including a dishwasher, knew the formula.

Jack Daniel’s claimed the final recipe for Lynchburg Lemonade was a product of Martha Bisio Lasseter, a company ″mixologist.″

Mason left the courtroom without comment. His attorney, Jerry Barksdale, gave no indication of a further appeal.

″This is something we’ve worked on for six years and put a lot of hours and efforts in. I really believed in the case. I’m disappointed,″ Barksdale said.

A top executive for Brown Forman, the parent company of Jack Daniel’s, which was among the original defendants, expressed delight at the verdict.