Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Agriculture Law
Spring Valley Produce, Inc., et al v. Nathan Aaron Forrest, et al
Appellant Spring Valley Produce, Inc. (SVP) is a creditor of Chapter 7 debtors Nathan and Marsha Forrest (the Forrests). The Forrests owe a pre-petition debt for produce which they are seeking to discharge. SVP initiated this adversary proceeding, seeking a declaration that the debt was nondischargeable under Section 523(a)(4). The bankruptcy court granted the Forrests’ motion to dismiss and held that Section 523(a)(4) does not apply to Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) related debts. At issue on appeal is whether the Bankruptcy Code’s exception to discharge in 11 U.S.C. Sections 523(a)(4) applies to debts incurred by a produce buyer who is acting as a trustee under PACA. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s order dismissing SVP’s claims because Section 523(a)(4) does not accept debts incurred by a PACA trustee from discharge. The court explained debts incurred by a produce buyer acting as a PACA trustee are not excepted from discharge under Section 523(a)(4). While a PACA trust does identify a trustee, beneficiary, and trust res, thus satisfying the first step of our analysis, it does not impose sufficient trust-like duties to fit the narrow definition of a technical trust under Section 523(a)(4). PACA does not impose the duties to segregate trust assets and refrain from using trust assets for a non-trust purpose, which are strong indicia of a technical trust. Instead, a PACA trust more closely resembles a constructive or resulting trust, which do not fall within Section 523(a)(4)’s exception to discharge. View "Spring Valley Produce, Inc., et al v. Nathan Aaron Forrest, et al" on Justia Law
Ramirez v. Statewide Harvesting & Hauling, LLC
Statewide harvests and hauls fruit from about 1,500 fields for Florida farmers. It does not own any of the lands it harvests. In 2014-2017, Statewide employed mostly temporary foreign guest workers as its seasonal harvest workers, through the federal H-2A program, which requires a labor contractor to provide workers with housing, either three meals a day or “free and convenient cooking and kitchen facilities,” and other basic housing amenities including laundry facilities. Statewide provided its workers with cooking facilities instead of meals and with transportation from housing to a grocery store, laundromat, and bank. Statewide employed Ramirez and Santana as crew leaders during the harvest seasons; they also drove the workers to and from housing and the grocery store, laundromat, and bank. These weekly trips lasted approximately four hours. Ramirez and Santana worked up to 80 hours a week. Neither received overtime compensation.They sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, for unpaid overtime compensation for the driving trips. Statewide argued that those activities fell under the agricultural work exemption from the overtime requirements, section 213(b)(12). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in favor of the crew leaders. Statewide is not a farmer; it “did not own, lease, or control the farms or crops harvested. To be exempt from the overtime requirements, the driving trips must have been “performed . . . on a farm.” They occurred off a farm and were not physically tied to a farm. View "Ramirez v. Statewide Harvesting & Hauling, LLC" on Justia Law
Autauga Quality Cotton Association v. Crosby
Autauga, a cooperative that pools and markets farmers’ cotton, claims that the Crosbys breached a marketing agreement when they failed to deliver their promised cotton for 2010 and sought liquidated damages ($1,305,397) under the agreement’s liquidated-damages provision, which provides: the Association shall be entitled to receive for every breach of this agreement for which such equitable relief is unavailable, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the difference between (a) the price of such cotton on the New York futures market during the period beginning with the date of breach or default by the Grower (taking into account the grade, staple, and micronaire of such cotton) and ending with the final delivery by the Association of cotton sold during that year, and (b) the highest price per pound received by the Association for the membership cotton (of the same or nearest grade, staple, and micronaire) sold by it from the same year’s crop. The Eleventh Circuit held that, under Alabama law, the provision that Autauga seeks to enforce is not a valid liquidated-damages clause but an impermissible penalty that is void and unenforceable. There is no evidence that the liquidated-damages formula here bears any relation to Autauga’s probable loss. View "Autauga Quality Cotton Association v. Crosby" on Justia Law
Ocheesee Creamery LLC v. Putnam
The Creamery filed suit against the State, contending that the State's refusal to allow it to call its product "skim milk" amounted to censorship in violation of the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for the State, determining that the State's refusal to allow the Creamery to use the term "skim milk" withstood scrutiny under the threshold inquiry of the Central Hudson test for commercial speech regulations. The court held that the State's actions prohibiting the Creamery's truthful use of the term "skim milk" violated the First Amendment. Under the threshold question of Central Hudson, the court concluded that the speech at issue neither concerned unlawful activity nor was inherently misleading. Therefore, the speech merits First Amendment protection and the State's restriction was subject to intermediate scrutiny under Central Hudson. The court concluded that the State's mandate was clearly more extensive than necessary to serve its interest in preventing deception and ensuring adequate nutritional standards. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Ocheesee Creamery LLC v. Putnam" on Justia Law
907 Whitehead Street, Inc. v. Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, et al
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum appealed the district court's post-trial order denying it declaratory and injunctive relief. The Museum challenged the jurisdiction of the USDA to regulate the Museum as an animal exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), 7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq. The court concluded that the Museum's exhibition of the Hemingway cats (descendants of Hemingway's polydactyl cat, Dexter), which roamed freely on the Museum's grounds, substantially affected interstate commerce where the Museum invited and received thousands of admission paying visitors from beyond Florida, many of whom were drawn by the Museum's reputation for and purposeful marketing of the Hemingway cats and where the exhibition of the Hemingway cats was integral to the Museum's commercial purpose. Therefore, Congress had the power to regulate the Museum and the exhibition of the Hemingway cats via the AWA. View "907 Whitehead Street, Inc. v. Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, et al" on Justia Law
Ramos-Barrientos, et al. v. Bland, et al.
Migrant workers who worked for defendant appealed a summary judgment in favor of defendant and against their complaint that defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (Act), 29 U.S.C. 203(m). At issue was whether an employer that hired migrant farm workers through the H-2A visa program was entitled to wage credits under the Act for housing and meals that federal law required the employer to provide the workers. The court deferred to the Secretary of Labor's interpretation that defendant could not credit the cost of housing in the wages paid to the workers and agreed with defendant that it was entitled to wage credits for the costs of meals for the workers. The court also concluded that defendant was not liable under principles of agency law for the fees that third parties charged the workers related to their efforts to obtain employment with defendant. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Miguel Sanchez Osorio, et al v. Dow Chemical Company, et al
Plaintiffs sued defendants, Dow Chemical Company ("Dow") and Dole Food Company, Inc. ("Dole"), for physical and psychological injuries they sustained from exposure to a pesticide, dibromocholoropropane, Dow supplied to Dole to use on its banana plantations. At issue is whether the over $97 million judgment a Nicaraguan court awarded plaintiffs is enforceable under the Florida Uniform Out-of-country Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act ("Act"). The court affirmed the district court's holding that the Nicaraguan judgment is not due recognition and enforcement under the Act where the Nicaraguan court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and/or personal jurisdiction over the defendants, where the judgment was "rendered under a system which does not provide... procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law" under the Act, and where recognizing the Nicaraguan judgment would be repugnant to Florida public policy.