The legal battle between Anheuser-Busch and a beer distributor has come to an end. The US brewer and the Maris family settled out of court yesterday (23 August) just as the jury had reached a verdict.

Anheuser-Busch was hit by a lawsuit from the Maris family for up to US$5bn for defamation after the brewer ended the distributor contract in 1997. In 2001, a jury awarded the family US$50m although the award was delayed on appeal. The brewer cancelled the contract and publicly accused the family of selling repackaged, out-of-date beer.

"We're just glad it's over," said Roger Maris Jr., son of his namesake father who founded the company after a successful baseball career. "It's been a long process."

The jurors saw their verdict, delivered on the second day of a three-week trial, sealed by the judge. Those who spoke to the press, however, said that they had decided to award compensatory damages but would not reveal how much.

Terms of the out-of-court settlement were not disclosed by either side.

AB disputed the claim that it had defamed the family when it said their distributorship repackaged beer. The brewer also denied accusations by the family that it was trying to seize the best-performing distributors from the family for Busch family relatives and friends.