CAN COMPANY SEALS OWN FATE IN SUIT.

All an Opa-locka fruit packer wanted was 40,000 jar lids, worth $4,000, from the company it blamed for spoiling its bottled fruit salads.

But Continental Can said, “sue us.”

This month, after seven years of litigation, the two parties reached a jarring settlement. Landsman Packing will get $1.1 million instead of the lids.

“They could have gotten off much cheaper if they had settled for the jar lids.” Said Miami attorney Peter Kneski, who represented Landsman Packing.

The case of the rotten salad began in 1981, when Landsman leased a capping machine from Continental, a worldwide packing firm. The machine was supposed to seal jars of Citrus Blossom salad, sold along the East Coast.

In 1982, after $200,000 is spoiled salads were returned, Landsman charged the capping machine was not working. Continental countered that Landsman’s poor maintenance was at fault, court documents show.

Packing firm owner Samuel Landsman wrote Continental: “I deplore having to go through litigation. I merely want to settle this dispute in a very cordial manner,” and he asked for the jar lids.

Continental officials turned Landsman down, and the dispute ended up in a Miami federal court, Kneski said.

In May 1987, a U.S. District Court jury awarded Landsman $5.8 million. The judgment was thrown out on appeal.

With the Feb. 12 start of a second trial looming, Kneski and Continental last week settled for the $1.1 million.

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