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Purchasers of egg products accused suppliers of conspiring to reduce the supply of eggs and increase the price for egg products in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Plaintiffs alleged that the producers conspired to reduce the population of egg-laying hens, resulting in a reduced supply of eggs and, given the inelasticity of demand, supra-competitive prices. A trade association coordinated a certification program under which participants had to increase their cage sizes and not replace hens that died. Plaintiffs alleged that the proffered animal welfare rationale was a pretext to reduce supply. The district court, citing a bar on indirect purchaser actions, concluded that the purchaser-plaintiffs lacked standing. The Third Circuit reversed. As a matter of first impression, a direct purchaser of a product that includes a price-fixed input has antitrust standing to pursue a claim against the party that sold the product to the purchaser, where the seller is a participant in the price-fixing conspiracy, but the product also includes some price-fixed input supplied by a third-party non-conspirator. The direct relationship between the purchasers and their suppliers and the fact that the suppliers are alleged price-fixing conspirators, not merely competitors of those conspirators, are key factors. Regardless of who collected the overcharge, the purchasers’ econometric analysis purports to show the “difference between the actual [supracompetitive] price and the presumed competitive price” of the egg products they purchased. This purported difference, and the purchasers’ resulting injury, was allegedly a direct and intended result of the suppliers’ conspiracy. View "In Re: Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Purchasers of egg products accused suppliers of conspiring to reduce the supply of eggs and increase the price for egg products in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Plaintiffs alleged that the producers conspired to reduce the population of egg-laying hens, resulting in a reduced supply of eggs and, given the inelasticity of demand, supra-competitive prices. A trade association coordinated a certification program under which participants had to increase their cage sizes and not replace hens that died. Plaintiffs alleged that the proffered animal welfare rationale was a pretext to reduce supply. The district court, citing a bar on indirect purchaser actions, concluded that the purchaser-plaintiffs lacked standing. The Third Circuit reversed. As a matter of first impression, a direct purchaser of a product that includes a price-fixed input has antitrust standing to pursue a claim against the party that sold the product to the purchaser, where the seller is a participant in the price-fixing conspiracy, but the product also includes some price-fixed input supplied by a third-party non-conspirator. The direct relationship between the purchasers and their suppliers and the fact that the suppliers are alleged price-fixing conspirators, not merely competitors of those conspirators, are key factors. Regardless of who collected the overcharge, the purchasers’ econometric analysis purports to show the “difference between the actual [supracompetitive] price and the presumed competitive price” of the egg products they purchased. This purported difference, and the purchasers’ resulting injury, was allegedly a direct and intended result of the suppliers’ conspiracy. View "In Re: Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Brandon Barrick brought an action under the False Claims Act on behalf of the United States, alleging his former employer Parker-Migliorini International (PMI) illegally smuggled beef into Japan and China. At the time of the scheme, China banned all imports of U.S. beef, and Japan imposed heightened standards, under which certain types of U.S. beef would have been banned. Barrick alleged PMI cheated the government out of the inspection fees that would have been paid if PMI had complied with federal law. In Barrick’s view, an “obligation” to pay the government arose when the USDA was informed that meat was being exported to a country with inspection standards higher than those in the United States. Thus, the government should have been paid for the inspections that would have occurred if PMI had accurately reported the destination countries. The Tenth Circuit disagreed with Barrick's reasoning: "[a]n established duty is one owed at the time the improper conduct occurred, not a duty dependent on a future discretionary act." Here, the obligation would not have arisen absent a third-party meat supplier’s independent wrongful conduct. This was because the meat supplier supplied the destination country to the USDA, thus controlling the type of inspection performed. But PMI did not use meat suppliers who were eligible to export beef to Japan. So, for an obligation to arise, the supplier would have had to report an accurate - and illegal - destination country to the USDA, even though the supplier was not eligible to export to that country. This conduct does not create an established duty under the Act. Because the Court did not find Barrick could adequately plead the existence of such an “obligation” by PMI as the Act required, it affirmed the district court’s denial of Barrick’s motion for leave to amend. View "United States ex rel. Barrick v. Parker-Migliorini Int'l" on Justia Law

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Dallas Schott, owner of Corson County Feeders, Inc., sued South Dakota Wheat Growers Association (SDWG), alleging its agronomist incorrectly prescribed a herbicide that Schott sprayed on his 2014 sunflower crop. The herbicide was not labeled for use on all of Schott’s sunflowers, and 1,200 acres were destroyed. The circuit court granted SDWG summary judgment, ruling that Schott assumed the risk. After review, the South Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded after finding there were disputed issues of fact concerning Schott’s knowledge and appreciation of the risk. View "Schott v. So. Dakota Wheat Growers Assn." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the superior court affirming in part the Department of Environmental Protection’s partial denial of Appellants’ Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request for public records related to Dubois Livestock, Inc. While the Department provided a substantial set of records to Appellants, it denied access to records that would be privileged against discovery or use as evidence in the course of a court proceeding. The Supreme Judicial Court (1) affirmed the superior court’s judgment as to the records that were withheld pursuant to the work product privilege; but (2) vacated the superior court’s judgment as to the records that were withheld based on the informant identity privilege, holding that there were factual disputes regarding findings necessary to a determination that there was “just and proper cause” for the Department’s withholding of records containing the identities of complainants. View "Dubois v. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting the Department of Environmental Protection’s request for a permanent injunction prohibiting Dubois Livestock, Inc. and the Randrick Trust (collectively, Appellants) from denying the Department access for solid waste inspections. The court held (1) the superior court did not err in concluding that Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 347-C and 1304(4-A) permit the Department to enter Appellants’ property without consent or an administrative search warrant; and (2) the warrantless searches authorized by these statutes do not violate Appellants’ constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. View "State v. Dubois Livestock, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2009, plaintiff Nikola Vekic sought to buy three oyster leases which were jointly owned by Dragutin Popich and his daughters Mary Popich and Helen Popich Harris (collectively “the Popich family”). Although the parties disputed the content of the discussions which took place between them regarding the sale of the three oyster leases, it was undisputed that the Popichs’ lawyer, Roger Harris (husband of Helen), transmitted a letter stating that Popich was “unwilling to do a credit sale.” Instead, Harris drafted and submitted an agreement entitled “Sublease Agreement With Option to Purchase” along with a proposed act of sale to Vekic, who reviewed the documents along with his attorney. Vekic executed the sublease agreement on April 14, 2009, without raising any issues regarding its contents. The terms of the artfully-crafted agreement differed significantly from a typical lease or sublease in that the Popich family transferred all of the rights and responsibilities of ownership to Vekic without the benefit of a formal transfer of title between the parties. Vekic was bound to pay the full $90,000 in “rent” regardless of whether the leases were damaged or were even subject to a complete taking. Vekic could not under any condition terminate the lease and was responsible for fulfilling all of the legal requirements to maintain the leases, including paying the $2 per-acre lease fee to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. After paying $60,000 of the "rent" owed, the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon well exploded, closing the area where the leases at issue here were located for a considerable amount of time. Vekic paid the Popich family the remaining $30,000 he owed under the agreement in May, 2011. On June 19, 2011, Mr. Vekic exercised his option to purchase, and the parties executed the act of sale, which had been prepared in 2009 along with the original agreement, without any modifications. In the wake of the spill, a class action lawsuit was filed against BP. Vekic filed a claim with the Deepwater Horizon Economic Claim Center (“DHECC”) which included the leases at issue. Helen Harris, also an attorney, prepared and filed claims for the Popich family, informing the DHECC of the 2009 agreement with Vekic and post-spill Act of Sale. A dispute arose regarding which party was entitled to the proceeds from the oil spill settlement for damages to certain oyster leases. The Louisiana Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeal and found that the trial court did not err in accepting evidence beyond the four corners of the contract at issue and did not manifestly err in its factual findings and ultimate interpretation that the agreement at issue entitled the plaintiff to the settlement proceeds for property damage to the leases at issue. View "Vekic v. Popich" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Bread for the City's complaint for failure to state a cause of action. Bread for the City alleged that the Department spent hundreds of millions of dollars less than the law required on a program to provide food for the needy. The district court upheld the Department's interpretation of 7 U.S.C. 2036(a), a spending provision in The Emergency Food Assistance Program, as modified by the Agriculture Act of 2014, Pub. L. No. 113-79, 4027(a), 128 Stat. 649, 812. The court held that the available evidence showed that those intimately involved in determining the spending levels of the Program did not support Bread for the City's version of section 2036(a). View "Bread for the City v. USDA" on Justia Law

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The Department of Pesticide Regulation, acting under the Food & Agriculture Code, approved amended labels for two registered pesticides: Dinotefuran 20SG and Venom Insecticide, which allowed both pesticides to be used on additional crops and allowed Venom to be used in increased quantities. Both pesticides contain the active ingredient dinotefuran, which is in a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids.The Department concluded uses of both pesticides in accord with the label amendments would cause no significant effect on honeybees or the environment. An environmental group challenged the approvals, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by approving the label amendments without sufficient environmental review. The court of appeal reversed the approvals. The Department’s pesticide registration program is exempt only from CEQA chapters 3 and 4 and from Public Resources Code section 21167; its regulatory program remains subject to CEQA's broad policy goals and substantive requirements. The Department’s environmental review was deficient. It failed to address any feasible alternative to registering the proposed new uses for the pesticides; failed to assess baseline conditions with respect to actual use of neonicotinoids in California; and did not show that the Department considered whether the impact to honey bees associated with registering new uses for both insecticides would be cumulatively considerable. View "Pesticide Action Network v. California Department of Pesticide Regulation" on Justia Law

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From 2006-2012 Packerland deceived at least one of its customers about the protein content of its Whey Protein Concentrate. Land O’Lakes purchased Packerland’s protein concentrate for use in making foods for calves and other young animals. Buyers infer protein levels from measuring nitrogen: a seller can add another nitrogen-rich substance to produce higher scores. The Ratajczaks, who owned Packerland, started adding urea to its protein concentrate. in 2006. Land O’Lakes suspected that the concentrate was high in nonprotein nitrogen but could not learn why; the Ratajczaks made excuses that Land O’Lakes accepted. The Ratajczaks sold Packerland in 2012. The new owner kept them as employees; they kept adding urea until the buyer learned what the truth. The Ratajczaks lost their jobs and settled for about $10 million before the buyer filed a complaint. Land O’Lakes stopped buying Packerland’s product and asserted claims of breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Packerland’s insurers refused to defend or indemnify it or the Ratajczaks; the Ratajczaks’ personal insurer refused to indemnify them for their settlement with Packerland’s buyer. The district court dismissed Land O’Lakes’s suit and ruled in favor of the insurers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Land O’Lakes’ claim to treble damages under RICO and state-law and the Ratajczaks’ claims that Packerland’s insurers and their own insurers had to defend and indemnify them. View "Land O'Lakes, Inc. v. Ratajczak" on Justia Law