Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Agriculture Law
Cascabel Cattle Co., LLC v. United States
Plaintiffs filed suit against the United States and others, alleging violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and seeking monetary damages associated with their loss of livestock following the implementation of a temporary fever tick quarantine.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that plaintiffs' claims were barred by the quarantine exception to the FTCA. The quarantine exception states that the statute's sovereign immunity waiver does not apply to any claim for damages caused by the imposition or establishment of a quarantine by the United States. In this case, plaintiffs' damages were caused by the implementation of the quarantine and thus defendants' challenged actions fell within the exception. View "Cascabel Cattle Co., LLC v. United States" on Justia Law
Iscavo Avocados USA, LLC v. Pryor
Iscavo and Villita filed suit against defendant and his now-defunct product distribution company, Coram Deo, for violations of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Iscavo and Villita, holding that defendant was properly held personally liable for the amounts Coram Deo owed for avocados under the Act.The court affirmed the district court's award of attorney fees to Villita, but vacated and remanded the award of attorneys' fee to Iscavo for the district court to explain the basis for its award. In this case, it was unclear from the record whether Iscavo's invoice required Coram Deo to pay attorneys' fees incurred in Iscavo's collection efforts, and the district court gave no explanation for its award to Iscavo. View "Iscavo Avocados USA, LLC v. Pryor" on Justia Law
Posted in: Agriculture Law
Adkins v. USDA
At issue in this appeal was a statutory scheme that dictates how to calculate farmers' crop insurance policies. Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the Fifth Circuit held that farmers were permitted to exclude the historical data for the 2015 crop year, even though the FCIC had not completed its data compilation. In this case, the FCIC has not provided any textual or contextual clues that would cast doubt on the plain language of the Federal Crop Insurance Act, 7 U.S.C. 1508(g)(4). Therefore, the farmers prevailed at Chevron step one. View "Adkins v. USDA" on Justia Law
Bear Ranch, LLC v. Heartbrand Beef, Inc.
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
Cripps v. Louisiana Dep’t of Agriculture & Forestry
Plaintiffs, brothers who worked in the pest control industry, filed suit against LDAF and LDAF's Assistant Director David Fields, in his individual capacity, alleging various claims related to the hearings before LDAF for violations of Louisiana's Pest Control Laws, La. Stat. Ann. 3:3363. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to establish sufficient evidence to demonstrate that defendants retaliated against them for complaining before the Commission and others. Because summary judgment was proper as to plaintiffs' First Amendment claims, summary judgment is also proper as to plaintiffs' state law claims. The court also concluded that summary judgment was properly granted as to the substantive due process claims. In this case, although plaintiffs may have a protected interest in being free from arbitrary state action not rationally related to a state purpose, they do not have a constitutional right to violate rules and regulations of the Louisiana Pest Control law. The record establishes a substantial basis for defendants’ actions and precludes any inference that such actions were arbitrary. Because Louisiana courts have found the due process protections in the Louisiana Constitution to be coextensive with the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment, the same determination applies to plaintiffs’ state law claims. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment claim fails because, assuming that the Excessive Fines Clause applies in this instance, the record indicates that each of plaintiffs' offenses resulted in fines that do not exceed the limits prescribed by the statute authorizing it. Under the facts established in the summary judgment record, plaintiffs' claims against David Fields failed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Cripps v. Louisiana Dep't of Agriculture & Forestry" on Justia Law
Kingdom Fresh Produce, Inc., et al v. Delta Produc
The Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), 7 U.S.C. 499e, is a Depression-era statute designed to protect sellers of perishable produce form delinquent purchasers. In this case, two such purchasers filed for bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court appointed special counsel to collect and disburse funds to PACA-protected sellers that had claims against the purchasers-turned-debtors. At issue on appeal is whether special counsel’s (Stokes) fees and expenses be disbursed from the PACA fund. Nowhere in the orders on the interim appeals is there an indication that the district court realized these were interlocutory orders and believed there was a benefit to hearing them in this piecemeal manner. That absence means the district court did not have appellate jurisdiction over the first two interim fee orders. Therefore the court vacated for lack of jurisdiction the district court’s order vacating the first and second fee awards. The court found that Kingdom Fresh has no standing to dispute the percentage of Stokes’s fee allocable to the nonobjecting parties. Only the small percentage of Stokes’s fee apportionable to Kingdom Fresh is at issue in this appeal; Stokes is free to keep the remainder. The court agreed with the Second Circuit that PACA’s unequivocal language requires that a PACA trustee - or in this case, its functional equivalent - may not be paid from trust assets “until full payment of the sums owing” is paid to all claimants. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order vacating the final fee award, but only as to Kingdom Fresh's pro rata share of the fees. View "Kingdom Fresh Produce, Inc., et al v. Delta Produc" on Justia Law
Contender Farms v. USDA
Mike McGarland and Contender Farms challenge a USDA regulation promulgated under the Horse Protection Act (HPA), 15 U.S.C. 1821-31, requiring that private entities, known as Horse Industry Organizations (HIOs), impose mandatory suspensions on those participants found to engage in a practice known as "soring." The court affirmed the district court's holding as to justiciability where plaintiffs, regular participants in the Tennessee walking horse industry, have standing to challenge the Regulation and present a ripe challenge to it. On the merits, the court held that the district court erred in concluding that the Regulation is a valid application of USDA regulatory authority under the HPA. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the USDA. The court remanded for entry of judgment in favor of plaintiffs. View "Contender Farms v. USDA" 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.