Heirs Of Barq's Bastard Sue Coca-Cola

It’s like something out of one of those daytime soaps I have most certainly never gotten hooked on — Heirs of the illegitimate son of the Barq’s root beer founder have filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola, alleging that the 1995 sale of Barq’s to the cola colossus wasn’t exactly legit.

We’ll try to untangle the strings for you. Many moons ago in Biloxi, MS, Edward Charles Edmond Barq Sr., founder of Barq’s root beer, sired a child out of wedlock named Jasper Robinson.

Jasper would later open a Barq’s facility in New Orleans and have exclusive rights to sell the drink in Louisiana. His dear old dad retained rights in Mississippi.

In the ’70s, the Mississippi branch of Barq’s was sold off to a pair of investors who marketed it into the brand most people know of.

Meanwhile, Jasper Robinson passed down the Louisiana branch of Barq’s to his two daughters and one son. The son, Jesse, later sold out his portion of the company and his planned inheritance to his sisters.

In the mid-’90s, both branches of the Barq’s company merged before being bought up by Coca-Cola. However, Jesse Robinon’s heirs claim that, under Louisiana law, you can not sell an inheritance. According to their lawsuit, that would nullify their father’s sale of his interest in the company.

According to the Times-Picayune, the heirs are asking for:

one-third interest in the “fruits and revenues generated and produced” by the acquisition of Barq’s “including, without limitation, the increase in value of those rights, the revenues generated from the use of the Barq’s trademark” in Louisiana. The estate is also asking for a share of stock in the Coca-Cola company that would be equal to the amount Robinson held in the Barq’s brand or some monetary compensation.

For its part, Coca-Cola tells the paper, “”We are aware of the suit and believe it is totally without merit.”

Grandchildren of Barq’s founder are challenging sale of root beer rights to Coca-Cola [Times-Picayune]

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  1. Costner says:

    We all know Barqs has bite… but does it count in the lawsuit doesn’t have any teeth?

  2. Bativac says:

    Frankly, sir, I prefer A&W or Virgil’s. I thank you to take your Barq’s and leave.

    It seems strange that a state law would prohibit the sale of an inheritance. My 10 minutes of cursory Googling revealed no such law in Louisiana. Maybe I Googled it wrong.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      If I had to guess, there is probably a state statue that prohibits the assignment of an inheritance that is not yet “there” – ie, I can’t sell you the rights to what my parents will eventually give me when they die when they’re not dead yet.

      Or it could be wrapped up in a trust that could not be sold but was. Either way, they’ll get cash (probably settle out of court) and this will end.

      • Bativac says:

        Louisiana does appear to have some strange “forced inheritance” law that might have something to do with it. Perhaps they are going to claim that the inheritance should have gone to them instead of his father being able to sell it. But they would had to have been born before he sold the inheritance. And even then I don’t see that they have a leg to stand on.

        I am not a fan of these suits where the family is suing to try to get a piece of something that belonged to their parents, which their parents sold off during their lifetime.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I like Barq’s but prefer Dominion (DC area regional, sort of. Started here, was purchased, now made in Delaware).

    • AstroPig7 says:

      I see your Virgil’s and raise you a Boylan.

  3. rpm773 says:

    Now wait a minute. The guy might have illegally sold Barqs in 1995, but that doesn’t make him a bastard, does it?

    • MrEvil says:

      bastard, noun

      1. An Illegitimate child. (i.e. a child born of parents that are not married.)

      being a ‘legitimate’ offspring has little meaning in 21st century society. Single parenting is quite commonplace and parents aren’t always married.

      • Velifer says:

        sar·chasm (‘sär-“ka-z&m) : noun, The giant gulf (chasm) between what is said and the person who doesn’t get it.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    It took me a few minutes to interpret the different naming conventions in the article, but in case you also get a little turned around, here it is: Edward Barq is the father of Jasper “Jesse” Robinson. Jasper Robinson named his son Jesse (grandson of Edward Barq). The Jesse Robinson who is suing is the grandson.

    Also, Barq’s is a delicious root beer.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      The way I read it, Grandson Jesse sold his portion of the inheritance away, and Jesse’s children (Great Grandchildren of Edward Barq) are claiming that their father could not legally have sold that and therefore it should have eventually ended up in their hands.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Ahh, wait. You’re correct. It’s the great-grandchildren, not the grandchildren who are suing.

    • DanRydell says:

      Actually, it’s Jesse Robinson’s children (Edward’s great-grandbastards) who are suing, because Jesse died in 1996.

      Jesse sold his interest in 1971 and apparently never disputed this before he died in 1996.

      The Consumerist article muddles the facts and is confusing at this point:

      “Meanwhile, Jasper Robinson passed down the Louisiana branch of Barq’s to his two daughters and one son. The son, Jesse, later sold out his portion of the company and his planned inheritance to his sisters.”

      This was confusing to me, because the company WAS his inheritance. Turns out that when his father died his wife inherited half, and his three children split the other half. The mother’s half was to be divided among the children when she died. What Jesse sold was his portion of the first half (1/6 of the company) AND his portion of his mother’s half (1/6 of the company). He did not yet own the portion of his mother’s half, so legally he could not sell it.

      I think a judge will see that the seller never disputed the sale and that all parties acted in good faith and will not award anything to Jesse’s children.

  5. craptastico says:

    it’s illegal to sell an inheritance in Louisiana? there’s no way that blue law will hold up. I imagine plenty of people have sold real estate and securities that they’ve inherited without it being overturned

    • Cantras says:

      I think they mean here that it was not yet in his hands when he sold it. “Gimme money now, and I’ll trade you the bit of Barq’s that dad will probably give me when he dies.”

      • partofme says:

        Can we consider it the same as option pricing? Give me some money now, and you’ll have the option to purchase the Barqs-related portion of my inheritance when I actually get it for zero dollars. And just like stock options, that portion may be worth zero at the actual time of purchase.

    • EarlNowak says:

      Forced Heirship, and it’s part of the napoleonic code that predates the Louisiana Purchase. It’s been held up multiple times.

  6. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    Wow, I wish I thought up that marketing slogan on the picture. Stroke of genius, for sure.

    “It’s Good”

    Wonder if they ever trademarked it?

    • BomanTheBear says:

      Dude, it’s still on the cans to this day. Had one earlier, oddly.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      Sorry, God used that slogan while creating the universe, so prior art and already trademarked. I’m completely surprised God hasn’t defended his mark.

  7. Murph1908 says:

    IANAL

    But why would Coke be on the hook here? Seems like Jessie’s heirs have a claim against their aunts for a portion of what Coke paid them.

    Coke bought the company in it’s entirety, from the aunts. If anyone, the aunts are at fault for selling something that doesn’t belong to them, and they would need to pay Jessie’s heirs for their share of the company.

    Having Coke pay Jessie’s heirs would be asking them to pay for part of the company twice.

    If I sell you a car for $1000, but I am only half the owner, do you want to have to pay my brother an additional $500? No. I owe my brother that money. Not you.

    I surely have made that far more simplistic than it actually is, but that’s gotta be the basics.

    • Gulliver says:

      It will depend on Cokes due dilligence. If your brother sold something of yours, that he had no right to sell, the sale can be completely rescinded. Thus reverting ownership back to you and your brother, and the buyer would be entitled to his money. Similarly, if you sell acar to a minor, and the minor decides they don’t like the deal, the minor says, I wish to rescind this contract, and you take back the car and he returns the money.

      • Murph1908 says:

        I was wondering what Coke’s responsibility in the whole process would be.

        Still seems to be a raw deal far as Coke is concerned, and they were the least responsible for the mess.

        The aunts seem to owe the heirs money for the sale to Coke. In that case, Jessie (deceased) owes the aunts money back because the inheritance sale was illegal. So the heirs, who probably INHERITED THE MONEY ALREADY PAID TO JESSIE are trying to get more money from Coke.

        It’s a family matter that Coke is being sucked into unfairly.

    • Mr. Pottersquash says:

      Coke wouldnt have bought anything. If all they got was an inheirtance, they basically bought the brooklyn bridge.

  8. dolemite says:

    Coke should hand them the company back, then demand their money back, plus interest, plus any taxes, etc.

    “Ok, we will give it back, but you owe us 2 billion first”.

    Then the state should swoop in and levi all kinds of fines/jail time on the family, because they sold illegal property.

    • DanRydell says:

      lol

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      but nullifying the deal means that Coke loses billions in equity in the brand – they have invested hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of dollars in advertising over the past decade.

  9. polizzi82 says:

    Barqs was the first mainstream root beer with caffeine and had a great taste. Where has it gone? A&W is so smooth and creamy but Barqs def has bite.

  10. A Pimp Named DaveR says:

    This sounds like it stands on highly dubious legal grounds…. When Coca-Cola bought the company, unless they’re advised by complete brain-damaged idiots of attorneys (and they’re not), they would have purchased all the shares. All the SHARES — not contingent rights to receive shares in the future from an inheritee (which is what I believe the law prohibits you from selling). So the person who tendered the shares in the merger wouldn’t have been the future devisee, it would have been the future testator — i.e. good old dad. But nice try!

    By the way — these laws serve a very functional purpose. But for laws like this, I could run an easy scam on you if you were a relatively unsophisticated person. Me and dad are realllllllly tight, you see, and he wants me to run the ConGlomCo empire when he dies, so he’s leaving me all his shares — $42 Billion’s worth! Now, for the low low low price of, say, $10M now, I’ll cut you in on the deal: I’ll sell you the right to 50% of whatever shares I inherit from dad! Sounds like quite a deal — how can you pass it up? And thank you for this lovely large check!

    (diddly diddly diddly)

    I’m very sorry dear old dad died. But I bet you’re even more sorry, because Dad left the entire company to me in trust, so technically I didn’t inherit ANY shares. I still get every penny of income from ConGlomCo, but you don’t have a legal right to anything. And good luck proving that Dad and I fraudulently conspired to rip you off! Hey, I made it clear that I was inheriting this, and you should have reasonably known that Dad could disinherit me at any time!

    That’s the basic situation (and a workable scam that derives from it) that the law is designed to protect you from.

    • CookiePuss says:

      I would’ve walked away as soon as he said “$42 Billion’s worth!”. :P

    • DanRydell says:

      I think at the time of the sale everyone was dead and everything had been inherited. It was just at the time of the transaction between brother and sisters (1971) that the mother still owned half of the company, and the son was due to inherit 1/3 of that. He sold that 1/3 of 1/2 along with the 1/6 he inherited directly from his father (sold it all to his sisters). 25 years later his mother was probably dead, her shares passed down to the sisters, and they sold the company. 15 years after that the son’s children are claiming that the sale that happened 40 years ago was illegal. While it may have been, I doubt a judge will side with them considering that the seller never contested anything for the 25 years until his death.

    • ARP says:

      Yes, we’d need to know if he inherited the stock/ownership in trust or not. If it was a trust, what were the terms? Was he just a beneficiary for the income?

      Any claim he has is probably against the estates of his relatives, not Coca Cola.

  11. quail says:

    I can just envision the need of such a law in Louisiana. Some down on his luck farmer being swindled by the card sharks in New Orleans and losing his farm. Probably happened enough in the 1800s that they needed a law that said you can’t sell your child’s inheritance.

    • Megalomania says:

      I would assume it’s actually to prevent the child from selling the inheritance before they have it, as the inheritance can be changed more or less whenever.

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        But what if someone is married to a close blood relative, hmmm? Say for instance, the father married his daughter and she sold her half since she was married to him and since that would make the father a brother she could split the inheritance in half again. And since she is married to her father which makes her, her own mother, then she gets the inheritance from both the mother and the father as well as her brother. It’s all so simple.

  12. Macgyver says:

    He sold his inheritance 25 years before he died, to his sisters. Then the sisters sold it to Coca-Cola.
    You can’t inherit something from someone who is still alive.
    His kids have no case.

  13. Bryan Price says:

    Hmmm. You can’t sell an inheritance? So, in other words, inheritances are now worthless, since there’s not much of a way of getting any money out of them. At least in Louisiana. No selling inherited real estate, cars, securities or jewelry.

    Excuse me when I say Bull.

  14. pandroid says:

    All I know is that Louisiana has a completely different legal system than the rest of the US, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this suit has more merit than it seems.

  15. UnicornMaster says:

    gold diggers…

  16. Mr. Pottersquash says:

    Guys Guys!!

    Consumerist got it all wrong. The brother sold to his sisters his shares PLUS the shares he would may have recieved once his mother passed. You can’t do that because under LA law until person is dead you have no property interest. So, he sold his sisters nothing who sold that nothing to Coke. The Brothers kids are saying that upon brothers death they were to recieve their dads estate. very interesting case.

    Coke will prob just settle.

  17. dush says:

    Sure, coca cola should pay the people, minus all the money they’ve spent in marketing and to build up the brand to what it is today.

  18. clarkins says:

    I didn’t think much of it at the time but Sunday night I entered the Coke Rewards code from a bottle of Barq’s to get the points.
    The site asks you what kind of bottle you got the code from and shows you pictures of them.
    All the other brands–Fanta, Mr. Pibb, Mello Yello and such appeared as selections but Barq’s didn’t. I had to pick “don’t remember”.