Justia Agriculture Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Kellogg, et al. v. Watts Guerra, et al.
This appeal stemmed from mass litigation between thousands of corn producers and an agricultural company (Syngenta). On one track, corn producers filed individual suits against Syngenta; on the second, other corn producers sued through class actions. The appellants were some of the corn producers who took the first track, filing individual actions. (the “Kellogg farmers.”) The Kellogg farmers alleged that their former attorneys had failed to disclose the benefits of participating as class members, resulting in excessive legal fees and exclusion from class proceedings. These allegations led the Kellogg farmers to sue the attorneys who had provided representation or otherwise assisted in these cases. The suit against the attorneys included claims of common-law fraud, violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Practices Act (RICO) and Minnesota’s consumer-protection statutes, and breach of fiduciary duty. While this suit was pending in district court, Syngenta settled the class actions and thousands of individual suits, including those brought by the Kellogg farmers. The settlement led to the creation of two pools of payment by Syngenta: one pool for a newly created class consisting of all claimants, the other pool for those claimants’ attorneys. For this settlement, the district court allowed the Kellogg farmers to participate in the new class and to recover on an equal basis with all other claimants. The settlement eliminated any economic injury to the Kellogg farmers, so the district court dismissed the RICO and common-law fraud claims. The court not only dismissed these claims but also assessed monetary sanctions against the Kellogg farmers. The farmers appealed certain district court decisions, but finding that there was no reversible error or that it lacked jurisdiction to review certain decisions, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Kellogg, et al. v. Watts Guerra, et al." on Justia Law
Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Bros. Dairy, Inc.
This case concerned the constitutionality of RCW 49.46.130(2)(g), the provision exempting agricultural workers from the overtime pay requirement set out in the Washington Minimum Wage Act, ch. 49.46 RCW. Jose Martinez-Cuevas and Patricia Aguilar worked for DeRuyter Brothers Dairy as milkers. DeRuyter milkers used mechanized equipment to milk close to 3,000 cows per shift, 24 hours a day, three shifts a day, 7 days a week. In 2016, Martinez-Cuevas and Aguilar filed the present class action suit along with about 300 fellow DeRuyter dairy workers, claiming that DeRuyter failed to pay minimum wage to dairy workers, did not provide adequate rest and meal breaks, failed to compensate pre- and post-shift duties, and failed to pay overtime. The complaint also sought a judgment declaring RCW 49.46.130(2)(g) unconstitutional. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the class, finding the exemption violated article I, section 12 of the Washington Constitution and the equal protection clause. After review, the Washington Supreme Court concurred with the trial court and affirmed that judgment. View "Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Bros. Dairy, Inc." on Justia Law
LaBatte v. United States
In 1999, Native American farmers sued, alleging that the USDA had discriminated against them with respect to farm loans and other benefits. The court certified a class, including LaBatte, a farmer and member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe. Under a settlement, the government would provide a $680 million compensation fund. The Track A claims process was limited to claimants seeking standard payments of $50,000. Track A did not require proof of discrimination. Under Track B, a claimant could seek up to $250,000 by establishing that his treatment by USDA was "less favorable than that accorded a specifically identified, similarly situated white farmer(s),” which could be established “by a credible sworn statement based on personal knowledge by an individual who is not a member of the Claimant’s family.” A "Neutral" would review the record without a hearing; there was no appeal of the decision. LaBatte's Track B claim identified two individuals who had personal knowledge of the USDA’s treatment of similarly-situated white farmers. Both worked for the government's Bureau of Indian Affairs. Before LaBatte could finalize their declarations, the government directed the two not to sign the declarations. The Neutral denied LaBatte’s claim. The Claims Court affirmed the dismissal of LaBatte’s appeal, acknowledging that it had jurisdiction over breach of settlement claims, but concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over LaBatte’s case because LaBatte had, in the Track B process, waived his right to judicial review to challenge the breach of the agreement. The Federal Circuit reversed. There is no language in the agreement that suggests that breach of the agreement would not give rise to a new cause of action. View "LaBatte v. United States" on Justia Law
Pigford v. Vilsack
Maurice McGinnis sought a loan through federal farm credit programs and alleges that he was denied access to such programs by the Department because of his race. This appeal concerns McGinnis' participation in a claims process established by a class action settlement agreement to resolve his and other farmers' discrimination claims. The court concluded that Paragraph 13 of the Consent Decree empowers the District Court to correct an error by the facilitator in transmitting a claim to the wrong track. If it is true that McGinnis selected Track B and the facilitator nevertheless sent his claim package to the adjudicator, the district court did no more than enforce the parties' agreement. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that it could review the facilitator's claim processing and vacate the adjudicator's determination. The court concluded that McGinnis' request to change his claim to Track B was sufficiently close in time to his submission of the claim package, and the language of the Consent Decree defining what constitutes a "completed claim package" is sufficiently ambiguous, to justify the district court in granting his petition. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Pigford v. Vilsack" on Justia Law
Carlin v. DairyAmerica, Inc.
At issue in this appeal were two issues: (1) whether the judicially created "filed rate doctrine," which typically has been utilized in common carrier and public utility litigation, was applicable in a class action lawsuit seeking monetary and injunctive relief under state law arising from the misreporting of pricing data to the USDA, where the data in turn were used to set a minimum price structure for raw milk sales; and (2) if the doctrine was applicable in that situation, whether the district court erred when it dismissed Plaintiffs' state causes of action on the ground that the filed rate doctrine barred such claims, even though the court found that it was not disputed that the USDA determined that the rates calculated were erroneous and that other rates should have applied based on correct pricing inputs. The plaintiffs here were dairy farmers who sold raw milk that was priced according to the erroneous reports. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the district court properly determined that the filed rate doctrine applied to the minimum milk pricing program, but erred by concluding that the doctrine applied to bar the plaintiffs' state-law claims in this case. View "Carlin v. DairyAmerica, Inc." on Justia Law
Public Pension Fund Group, et al. v. KV Pharmaceutical Co., et al.
Plaintiffs, groups of investors who purchased the securities of KV, brought this class action lawsuit alleging that KV and some of its individual officers committed securities fraud. Plaintiffs alleged that KV made false or misleading statements about its compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations governing the manufacture of pharmaceutical products, and made false or misleading statements about earnings resulting from pharmaceutical products allegedly manufactured in violation of FDA regulations. The court concluded plaintiffs' complaint adequately set forth the reasons why KV's statements about is compliance were false, or at least misleading, at the time they were made; the district court did not err when it determined the investors' complaint did not sufficiently plead that KV made false or misleading statements about earnings tied to the manufacture of generic Metoprolol; the district court correctly dismissed the scheme liability claims against the two individual KV officers; but the district court erred in denying the motion to amend the complaint. Accordingly the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Public Pension Fund Group, et al. v. KV Pharmaceutical Co., et al." on Justia Law
Wiltz v. Bayer CropScience, L.P., et al.
Plaintiffs in this putative class action were buyers and processors of farm-raised crawfish who sought to recover their economic loss from a pesticide manufacturer under the Louisiana Products Liability Act, (LPLA), La. Rev. State. Ann. 9:2800.54. At issue was whether the district court properly granted summary judgment to the manufacturer because plaintiffs' economic loss was unaccompanied by damage to their own person or property. The court held that, although plaintiffs have submitted evidence suggesting that they worked closely with crawfish farmers, plaintiffs have not submitted any evidence suggesting that the pesticide actually harmed their crawfish. The court also held that there was no evidence that plaintiffs were deprived of an actual, legal right to buy crawfish from the crawfish farmers. The court further denied plaintiffs' request to certify their proposed question to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment. View "Wiltz v. Bayer CropScience, L.P., et al." on Justia Law