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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

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In 2008, Purdy borrowed from Citizens First, using his dairy cattle as collateral. Purdy refinanced in 2009, executing an “Agricultural Security Agreement" that granted Citizens a purchase money security interest in “all . . . Equipment, Farm Products, [and] Livestock (including all increase and supplies) . . . currently owned [or] hereafter acquired.” Citizens perfected this security interest by filing with the Kentucky Secretary of State. Purdy and Citizens executed two similar security agreements in 2010 and 2012, which were perfected. After the 2009 refinancing, Purdy increased the size of his herd, entering into “Dairy Cow Lease” agreements with Sunshine. The parties also executed security agreements and Sunshine filed financing statements. In 2012, milk production became less profitable. Purdy sold off cattle, including many bearing Sunshine’s brand, and filed a voluntary Chapter 12 bankruptcy petition. Both Citizens and Sunshine sought relief from the stay preventing the removal of the livestock. In 2014, the Sixth Circuit held that Citizens failed to demonstrate that the "Leases” were actually security agreements in disguise. On remand, the bankruptcy court determined that all cattle sold at a 2014 auction were subject to Citizens’ security interest. The district court affirmed, awarding Citzens $402,354.54. The Sixth Circuit affirmed; the bankruptcy court did not contravene its mandate by holding a hearing on the question of ownership. View "Sunshine Heifers, LLC v. Citizens First Bank" on Justia Law

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Defendant may not enforce several limitation of remedies clauses against Plaintiffs, several commercial farmers in North Carolina, in defense of lawsuits premised on Defendant’s distribution of allegedly mislabeled tobacco seed. Defendant was in the business of breeding, developing, and producing tobacco seeds. Plaintiffs filed suits that were eventually consolidated alleging that Defendant had sold them mislabeled, certified tobacco seed for planting. Defendant argued in response that in accordance with the limitation of remedies clause on each container of seed, Plaintiffs’ alleged damages were “limited to repayment of the purchase price of the seed.” The Business Court denied Defendants’ motions for partial summary judgment on the grounds that limitation of remedies clauses appearing on the labels of mislabeled seed must fail by virtue of public policy, as expressed by the General Assembly in the North Carolina Seed Law of 1963, to protect farmers from the potentially devastating consequences of planting mislabeled seed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s limitation of remedies clauses were unenforceable against Plaintiffs. View "Kornegay Family Farms LLC v. Cross Creek Seed, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bremer Bank, the Public Service Commission ("PSC"), Auto-Owners Insurance Company, and Curt Amundson appealed a judgment in a grain warehouse insolvency proceeding involving Grand Forks Bean Company after the district court appointed the PSC as trustee for the sale of dry edible beans from Grand Forks Bean's warehouse, denied Bremer's motion to intervene in the insolvency proceeding, and ordered distribution of the proceeds of the sale of the beans to growers determined to be noncredit-sale receiptholders. We conclude the district court did not err in construing applicable statutory provisions for insolvency proceedings and in applying those provisions. The PSC initially issued a trustee's report concluding all nine bean growers were noncredit-sale receiptholders entitled to participate in the trust fund proceeds and recommending payment of $652,747.92 to those receiptholders based on a December 2014 insolvency date and a market price of $23 per hundredweight on that date. The court ruled eight of the bean growers were noncredit-sale receiptholders entitled to participate in the insolvency trust fund proceeds. The court concluded one grower, Amundson, had a credit-sale contract with Grand Forks Bean under N.D.C.C. 60-04-01(2) and was not entitled to participate in the trust fund proceeds. The court also determined the date of Grand Forks Bean's insolvency under N.D.C.C. 60-04-02 was October 15, 2013, and the market price for beans on that date was $38 per hundredweight. The court determined three growers were entitled to a different price per hundredweight for their beans because they had cash claims with Grand Forks Bean for an agreed price. The court further concluded the PSC was entitled to its costs and expenses under N.D.C.C. sections 60-04-03.1, 60-04-09, and 60-04-10. The court ordered disbursement of the trust fund proceeds and thereafter issued an order denying Auto-Owner's motion for post-hearing relief. The district court denied without prejudice Bremer's motion to intervene to litigate the priority of its security interest, but allowed Bremer to participate in the proceeding "to the full extent provided to any other receiptholder/claimant." Amundson argued the district court erred in concluding he had a credit-sale contract with Grand Forks Bean because the definition of a credit-sale contract in N.D.C.C. 60-02-19.1 controls and required signatures by both the grower and the warehouseman to be a credit-sale contract. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Public Service Commission v. Grand Forks Bean Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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USI petitioned for review of the FSIS's determination that the packaging used by USI was misbranded under the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1907 (FMIA), 21 U.S.C. 601 et seq., because its label included the FSIS inspection identification number of its supplier without the latter's permission. The D.C. Circuit denied the petition for review and held that FSIS's determination that USI's labeling was misleading was neither arbitrary nor capricious where the Administrator noted that the FSIS permits a re-boxer to use its supplier's establishment number only if the supplier consents to the practice, and USI had not provided document as requested, showing consent of the official establishment. View "United Source One, Inc. v. US Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law