Materials supplier Mass Polymers Corp. continues to grow almost two years after winning a major legal decision.
Since 2017, Bridgewater, N.J.-based MPC has added three new suppliers of generic prime polyethylene resin. Several North American PE makers have added capacity in recent years because of increased access to affordable feedstocks.
"As the new production comes available, we see a trend to generic prime," MPC President Steve Dazzo said in a recent email to Plastics News. "A number of producers see value in mid-size distribution vs. larger distributors."
"The producers feel we provide them more attention and detailed marketing information in a partnership format," they added.
In addition to the new PE suppliers, since 2016 MPC has hired four new domestic and international sales managers. The firm also has added ABS, PET and SMA resins and black and white concentrates to its line card and has entered the Mexican market.
The court victory took place in late 2017 when a U.S. District Court judge in Newark, N.J., dismissed a case that had been brought against MPC by former customer Supreme Oil Co., a maker of vegetable oil and condiments based in Englewood, N.J. Supreme had filed a lawsuit against MPC in Newark in early 2015, leading MPC to file a counterclaim.
Supreme had claimed that MPC misrepresented high density PE resin that it had sold. The resin was used by Supreme to make blow molded containers, mostly for vegetable oil, at its plants in Englewood and in Brundidge, Ala.
The judge ruled in early 2017 that MPC had correctly identified the HDPE sold to Supreme. He also ruled that MPC was owed interest and court costs. Supreme had voluntarily agreed to pay the full cost of the resin before the judge's ruling.
In a recent phone interview, Dazzo said that the decision was "a huge win" for his firm and that it was "precedent-setting" for any future cases involving generic prime resin.
Generic prime resin commonly is described as material that has all of the performance attributes of standard prime without being identified with a specific supplier. In the MPC/Supreme case, the grade of HDPE sold is made by six different North American PE makers.
MPC supplied certificates of analysis which confirmed that the material "was exactly what they said it was," according to Carl Soranno, a lawyer who represented MPC in the case.
Dazzo added that MPC had supplied 72 rail cars of that grade of HDPE to Supreme over a two-year period before the question was raised. Supreme continued to use the material while filing the lawsuit, he said.
In the lawsuit, Supreme had claimed that they believed the HDPE they used was made by the same supplier and came from the same reactor. Dazzo described that expectation as "ludicrous," since even individual PE makers sometimes make the same material at different sites that they operate.
"If you sell generic aspirin that's stocked at a CVS right next to Bayer aspirin, it could have been made at the same plant," Dazzo said. "It's the same thing for generic prime resin and there's never been a challenge to that. But we defended it for the reseller and distribution market."
MPC officials declined to say how much the firm was awarded in the ruling. In the original counterclaim, MPC was seeking almost $600,000 for unpaid resin shipments. Supreme had been seeking at least $225,000 in damages.
MPC was founded in 1971 as a commodity resin distributor and trader. The firm now has partnered with more than 20 suppliers and sells into the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Core businesses for MPC include PE, polypropylene and polystyrene. The firm uses more than 35 warehouses in North America and has sales offices across the U.S and Canada.
Supreme was acquired in 2016 by Stratas Foods LLC, a joint venture between Archer Daniels Midland and ACH Food Cos. Officials with Stratas could not be reached to comment on the MPC/Supreme case.