by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a putative class action complaint alleging that Abbott violated New York and California statutes and common law by advertising and selling Similac infant formula branded as organic and bearing the "USDA Organic" seal when the formula contained ingredients not permitted by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The court held that plaintiffs' claims were preempted by federal law and the court need not address Abbott's remaining arguments based on primary jurisdiction, failure to exhaust, or failure to state a claim. The court reasoned that there was no way to rule in plaintiffs' favor without contradicting the certification decision, and thus the certification scheme that Congress enacted in the OFPA. View "Marentette v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law

by
This appeal stems from a long-running dispute between the parties over a contract regarding Akaushi cattle. The court held that sufficient evidence existed for the jury to find that HeartBrand suffered a cognizable injury from Bear Ranch's misrepresentation; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it exercised its "wide latitude in determining the admissibility" of a valuation expert's testimony; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it chose not to modify the injunction in April 2016 as there was no showing of a significant change in circumstances; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding $3.2 million to HeartBrand in attorney's fees. However, the court reversed the district court's award of $1,825,000 in exemplary damages to HeartBrand. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it set the Constructive Trust Threshold at $3,796 per head. View "Bear Ranch, LLC v. Heartbrand Beef, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Perkins has actively operated a 200-acre Kentucky farm since 1970. Her operation expanded to cultivate approximately 9,500 acres in various partnerships. Perkins encountered financial trouble in 2014. The partnerships filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. Perkins retired from teaching. The Chapter 11 bankruptcies were dismissed after liquidating substantially all of the partnerships’ assets and making over four million dollars of payments to BB&T. In 2016 Perkins sought Chapter 12 bankruptcy protection. Creditors' proofs of claim totaled $4,012,908.79. In the preceding year, Perkins received $279,000 of gross income from her farm, $764,472 from her partnerships, $161,571 of capital gains from equipment sales, and $132,360 from wages, pension, and social security. BB&T objected to her plan, which projected that $18,950 could be paid annually to unsecured creditors over the plan’s five-year life and that a Chapter 7 liquidation would produce no payments to unsecured creditors. The plan proposed to pay BB&T annual installments over 20 years at 4.5% interest. The bankruptcy court rejected BB&T’s objection and confirmed the plan. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed. Chapter 12 relief, 11 U.S.C. 109(f), is available to family fishermen and family farmers, defined as an “individual . . . engaged in a farming operation whose aggregate debts do not exceed $4,153,150,” and who receives more than half of her gross income from “such farming operation.” The bankruptcy court properly found Perkins to be a family farmer and confirmed the plan as feasible, providing proper treatment to secured claims, and meeting the best interests of creditors test. View "In re: Perkins" on Justia Law

by
Perkins has actively operated a 200-acre Kentucky farm since 1970. Her operation expanded to cultivate approximately 9,500 acres in various partnerships. Perkins encountered financial trouble in 2014. The partnerships filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. Perkins retired from teaching. The Chapter 11 bankruptcies were dismissed after liquidating substantially all of the partnerships’ assets and making over four million dollars of payments to BB&T. In 2016 Perkins sought Chapter 12 bankruptcy protection. Creditors' proofs of claim totaled $4,012,908.79. In the preceding year, Perkins received $279,000 of gross income from her farm, $764,472 from her partnerships, $161,571 of capital gains from equipment sales, and $132,360 from wages, pension, and social security. BB&T objected to her plan, which projected that $18,950 could be paid annually to unsecured creditors over the plan’s five-year life and that a Chapter 7 liquidation would produce no payments to unsecured creditors. The plan proposed to pay BB&T annual installments over 20 years at 4.5% interest. The bankruptcy court rejected BB&T’s objection and confirmed the plan. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed. Chapter 12 relief, 11 U.S.C. 109(f), is available to family fishermen and family farmers, defined as an “individual . . . engaged in a farming operation whose aggregate debts do not exceed $4,153,150,” and who receives more than half of her gross income from “such farming operation.” The bankruptcy court properly found Perkins to be a family farmer and confirmed the plan as feasible, providing proper treatment to secured claims, and meeting the best interests of creditors test. View "In re: Perkins" on Justia Law

by
The National Organic Standards Board, an advisory committee, has 15 members, all appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, 7 U.S.C.6518(b), (c); its principal task is advising the Secretary what belongs on the “National List of approved and prohibited substances that shall be included in the standards for organic production and handling” Plaintiffs, who operate organic farms, asked the Secretary to appoint them to the Board, but the Secretary appointed Beck and Swaffar. Plaintiffs contend that Beck and Swaffar are ineligible to fill the seats to which they were appointed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for lack of standing. Beck and Swaffer, appointed to seats reserved for “individuals who own or operate an organic farming operation,” were office employees of agribusinesses that produce some organic products and some non-organic products. Plaintiffs argued that by deflecting the Board from making recommendations most likely to promote organic farmers’ interests, Beck and Swaffar have called organic-farming into disrepute and reduced organic sales; that is not the kind of person-specific loss needed to show standing. Any injury plaintiffs assert could not be redressed by a favorable decision. The Secretary has a statutory right to appoint Board members but no corresponding duty to evaluate any particular applicant. View "Cornucopia Institute v. United States Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law

by
The United States District Court for the District of Colorado certified a question of Colorado law to the Colorado Supreme Court. Defendant Ray Domenico Farms, Inc. grew organic vegetables. Plaintiffs were three year-round and four seasonal migrant workers who had been previously employed by Domenico Farms from as far back as 1992. All Plaintiffs were paid by the hour, and alleged they never received overtime pay during their employment with Domenico Farms. While agricultural workers were generally exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) overtime requirements, Plaintiffs alleged they performed nonagricultural tasks in weeks in which they worked more than forty hours, thus entitling them to overtime wages under FLSA for those weeks. The certified question from the federal court pertained to how far back in time a terminated employee’s unpaid wage claims could reach under the Colorado Wage Claim Act, sections 8-4-101 to -123, C.R.S. (2017). Specifically, the certified question asked whether the statute permitted a terminated employee to sue for wages or compensation that went unpaid at any time during the employee’s employment, even when the statute of limitations had run on the cause of action the employee could have brought for those unpaid wages under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-4-103(1)(a). The Supreme Court held that under the plain language of section 109, an employee could seek any wages or compensation that were unpaid at the time of termination; however, the right to seek such wages or compensation was subject to the statute of limitations. That statute of limitations begins to run when the wages or compensation first become due and payable and thus limits a terminated employee to claims for the two (or three) years immediately preceding termination. Thus, the Court answered the certified question in the negative. View "Hernandez v. Ray Domenico Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The United States District Court for the District of Colorado certified a question of Colorado law to the Colorado Supreme Court. Defendant Ray Domenico Farms, Inc. grew organic vegetables. Plaintiffs were three year-round and four seasonal migrant workers who had been previously employed by Domenico Farms from as far back as 1992. All Plaintiffs were paid by the hour, and alleged they never received overtime pay during their employment with Domenico Farms. While agricultural workers were generally exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) overtime requirements, Plaintiffs alleged they performed nonagricultural tasks in weeks in which they worked more than forty hours, thus entitling them to overtime wages under FLSA for those weeks. The certified question from the federal court pertained to how far back in time a terminated employee’s unpaid wage claims could reach under the Colorado Wage Claim Act, sections 8-4-101 to -123, C.R.S. (2017). Specifically, the certified question asked whether the statute permitted a terminated employee to sue for wages or compensation that went unpaid at any time during the employee’s employment, even when the statute of limitations had run on the cause of action the employee could have brought for those unpaid wages under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-4-103(1)(a). The Supreme Court held that under the plain language of section 109, an employee could seek any wages or compensation that were unpaid at the time of termination; however, the right to seek such wages or compensation was subject to the statute of limitations. That statute of limitations begins to run when the wages or compensation first become due and payable and thus limits a terminated employee to claims for the two (or three) years immediately preceding termination. Thus, the Court answered the certified question in the negative. View "Hernandez v. Ray Domenico Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The en banc court vacated the district court's summary judgment for AgriCap in an action brought by produce growers under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). The en banc court joined other circuits and adopted a "true sale" test to determine whether assets transferred in transactions that are labeled "sales" remained assets of a PACA trust. The court held that a court must conduct a two-step inquiry when determining whether the questioned transaction is a sale or creates a security interest, i.e., a loan. First, a court must apply a threshold true sale test of which the transfer-of-risk is a key, but not the sole, factor. If a court concludes that there was a true sale, it must then determine if the transaction was commercially reasonable. The court held that a district court should look to the substance of the transaction to determine whether the transaction is a true sale or a secured loan. In doing so, the transfer of risk should be a primary factor to which a court looks. View "G.W. Palmer & Co. v. Agricap Financial" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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