Justia Agriculture Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Vermont Supreme Court
The case involves Aerie Point Holdings, LLC (Aerie Point) and Vorsteveld Farm, LLC (Vorsteveld). Aerie Point owns a property in Panton, Vermont, which is located downhill from Vorsteveld's dairy farm. In 2017, Vorsteveld began installing tile drains in its fields to improve soil quality. The excess water drained from these tiles was discharged into public ditches, then through culverts, and finally towards Lake Champlain over Aerie Point’s property. This led to increased water flow, sediment, and contaminants on Aerie Point's land, causing shoreline erosion and algae blooms in Lake Champlain. In April 2020, Aerie Point filed a lawsuit against Vorsteveld for trespass and nuisance.The civil division found in favor of Aerie Point in March 2022, concluding that Vorsteveld's actions constituted trespass and nuisance. The court issued an injunction in August 2022, preventing Vorsteveld from allowing water from its drain tile system to flow into the public ditches and culverts on Arnold Bay Road. Vorsteveld did not appeal this judgment.In August 2023, Vorsteveld moved for relief from the judgment under Rule 60(b)(5) and (6), arguing that postjudgment changes in fact and law justified relief from the injunction. Vorsteveld claimed that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation regarding filled wetlands on the farm prevented it from complying with the injunction, and that the federal investigation/enforcement action preempted the state injunction. Vorsteveld also argued that changes to Vermont’s Right-to-Farm law justified relief from the injunction. The court denied the motion and the request for an evidentiary hearing.On appeal, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that Vorsteveld's arguments were attempts to relitigate issues that had been resolved by the judgment. The court also found that Vorsteveld had not demonstrated that there were significant postjudgment changes in factual circumstances or the law that made prospective application of the injunction inequitable. The court concluded that Vorsteveld's arguments relating to the EPA investigation and changes to the Right-to-Farm law were insufficient to merit relief under Rule 60(b). The court also found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Vorsteveld's request for an evidentiary hearing. View "Aerie Point Holdings, LLC v. Vorsteveld Farm, LLC" on Justia Law