Prada’s penchant for offering up pricey alligator wares has landed it in the middle of a $2 million legal mess over 700 young alligators and 26 full-grown alligators. According to the lawsuit, which was filed in a Florida state court late last year and served upon Prada in February, Capo-USA alleges that it entered into an agreement with GNP Pelli to “purchase American alligator hides and alligator hatchlings," for the "benefit of Prada."
Miami-based Capo-USA, “a commissioned representative securing quality American alligator skins, or hides, for customers in Europe, and serving as a licensed exporter of American alligator skins,” alleges that it "during meetings in Miami-Dade County, Florida [in 2014], Prada, GNP Pelli and Capo-USA confirmed their agreernent that Capo-USA would take steps to locate groweñ of quality hides, facilitate shipment to GNP Pelli's factory in ltaly, anrl facilitate the relationships including providing hatchlings to the growers."
The partnership came about at a time when “the market for alligator skins was very challenging and competitive, and it was virtually impossible for a new foreign company to successfully develop supply relationships” on its own. So, Capo-USA alleges that it "used its skill, expertise and contacts to develop relationships between growers and GNP Pelli and Prada." In exchange, Capo-USA “would be paid for the [newly hatched alligators],” and “would be paid a commission of 5 percent on the sales of hides.”
All was going well, according to Capo-USA – which had established a supply chain of alligators hatchlings in America for Prada – until last year when it learned that the fashion brand allegedly cut it out of a multi-million dollar deal. Capo-USA argues that it arranged for the transport of 726 alligators to a farm in Louisiana, which would “raise those alligators for harvest and hides and for Prada.”
Instead of proceeding in accordance with the parties’ deal, Capo-USA claims that “Prada, and GNP Pelli, intentionally and unjustifiably interfered with [its] relationship with the growers, and breached their relationship by dealing directly with the growers and cutting Capo-USA out of its commissioned representative arrangement.”
As a result, Capo-USA asserts that “GNP Pelli has received millions of dollars of alligator skins [for Prada] and failed to pay commissions to Capo-USA,” thereby giving rise to damages of upwards of $2 million, which it is seeking in connection with the lawsuit.
Prada has since responded to the complaint, seeking to have the case removed to a federal court in Florida, and then transferred due to an existing arbitration in Milan, which was instated by Prada. According to Law360, Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga "slapped down fashion house Prada’s bid to quickly move to arbitration in Milan a $1.2 million lawsuit brought by a goods shipper over a purchase agreement for alligator eggs and hatchlings, ordering Prada to respond to the suit’s allegations."
A spokesman for Prada has since provided a statement saying, “Some time ago Prada filed a legal action against Capo-USA before an arbitration court established with the National and International Arbitration Court of Milan, in order to obtain payment of about $1 million due to serious breaches committed by Capo-USA in relation to a contract for sales and services involving alligator breeding. Capo-USA then filed a lawsuit in Florida, in which the main defendants are not Prada and are not connected to it.”
UPDATED (May 8, 2018): As reported by Law360, a Florida federal judge has tossed out the case, holding that a clearly worded clause in the parties' agreement for alligator eggs and hatchlings requires that they handle disputes by way of arbitration in Milan.
* The case is Capricci U.S.A. Corp., v. Prada S.p.A., GNP Pelli Di Pezzolictan Andrea, and DONALD FARMS Inc., 1:18-cv-20859-CMA (S.D.Fla.).