In 1949, the Secretary of Agriculture issued the California Raisin Handling Order. The Marketing Order allows the Secretary to restrict the supply of raisins reaching the commercial market in a given crop year by ordering handlers of raisins to withhold a designated percentage of growers’ yearly raisin crop in reserve. The portion of the growers’ crop so withheld is known as the “reserve pool.”
The Raisin Administrative Committee is responsible for administering the Marketing Order. If the Committee recommends a reserve pool, Marketing Order regulations require that, within three business days, handlers set aside the reserved percentage of raisin deliveries to establish a reserve in the percentage recommended by the Committee; the USDA, during the years at issue, would then publish a rule adopting the Committee’s recommended reserve percentages. This rule designates the percentage of a given year’s crop that is considered “free tonnage” (which can be sold freely in commercial channels), and the portion that handlers must reserve as “reserve tonnage.” Handlers pay growers for the free-tonnage raisins but not for the reserve-tonnage raisins delivered by growers. The Committee also decides how to dispose of the reserved raisins.
In certain crop years, including the 2002–2003, 2003–2004, 2005–2006, 2006–2007, 2007–2008, 2008–2009, and 2009–2010 crop years, the Committee recommended and the USDA published rules establishing the Committee’s recommended reserve pool and, growers delivered their raisins to handlers. Under the Marketing Order, the handlers in turn separated free-tonnage and reserve-tonnage raisins, and paid growers only for their free-tonnage raisins. The Committee then administered the reserve.
On June 22, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Horne v. Dep’t of Agriculture, 135 S. Ct. 2419 (2015), a case in which an individual handler faced a fine for not complying with the reserve. In that case, the Court stated, in part, that the Marketing Order’s reserve-pool requirement was “a clear physical taking” in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause for which just compensation was due. The Ciapessoni plaintiffs contend that this statement applies to the claims of growers who did comply with the reserve. The defendant in Ciapessoni, the United States, contends that the Horne opinion does not apply to such growers in the Ciapessoni case to establish any “taking,” or any need for additional compensation.
Based on Horne, Plaintiffs, on behalf of the Class, bring this class action to recover what they allege to be just compensation for raisins produced by Class Members and, allegedly, subsequently taken by the USDA pursuant to the Marketing Order’s reserve requirement. Plaintiffs claim that they have been deprived of their property and are therefore entitled to just compensation under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The United States moved to dismiss on the grounds that all crop years other than the 2009-2010 crop year are barred by the statute of limitations. On November 29, 2016, the Court denied the United States’ motion to dismiss. The Court held that Plaintiffs may continue with their class action to try to establish a compensable “taking” by the United States of “reserve” raisins, and the amount of any monetary damages suffered by the Ciapessoni Plaintiffs that the United States should pay, for the crop years 2002–2003, 2003–2004, 2005–2006, 2006–2007, 2007–2008, 2008–2009, and 2009-2010. The United States has reserved the right to appeal whether claims prior to the 2009-2010 crop-year are barred by the statute of limitations.
The United States has answered the Ciapessoni complaint. The United States denies that the reserve-pool was an unconstitutional taking without just compensation. The United States also contends that the members of the Class actually benefitted from the reserve program by, among other things, the program supporting prices for free-tonnage raisins and sales of raisins that were higher than what those prices and sales would have been without the program.
On May 11, 2017, the Court entered an order granting class certification and appointing McDermott Will & Emery LLP as “Lead Counsel” for the Class and Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe LLP as “Co-Counsel” (collectively, “Class Counsel”).
You have been mailed this Notice because government or handler records show that you may be a producer or other person whose natural seedless raisins were acquired by handlers and placed in reserves for the account of the Raisin Administrative Committee in the 2002–2003, 2003–2004, 2005–2006, 2006–2007, 2007–2008, 2008–2009, and/or 2009–2010 crop years.Top
The Plaintiffs who filed this class action—i.e., Bruce Ciapessoni, Elisa Ciapessoni, Bob F. Hansen, Hansen Enterprises, R&H Agri-Enterprises, Eldora Rossi, Rossi & Ciapessoni Farms, and Rossi & Rossi—seek the following relief on behalf of themselves and the Class:
• Payment from the United States for reserve raisins delivered during the crop years 2002–2003 (reserve 47%), 2003–2004 (reserve 30%), 2005–2006 (reserve 18%), 2006–2007 (reserve 10%), 2007–2008 (reserve 15%), 2008-2009 (reserve 13%), and 2009–2010 (reserve 15%). Plaintiffs currently estimate damages for these claims to exceed $200 million. If the case proceeds to trial, the damages awarded could range from $0 to more than $200 million.
• Payment from the United States for pre-judgment interest on any such damages, with any such interest continuing to accrue daily.
• Payment to the Class Counsel who filed this lawsuit, including, but not limited to, for their fees and expenses associated with bringing and prosecuting this lawsuit. The payment to Class Counsel would be made from any judgment or settlement obtained by Class Members and would be calculated as not to exceed 25% of any settlement prior to trial or 33% of any award for the Class Members (whether by settlement or judgment) during or after trial.
• The award of any other relief that the Court deems just and proper.
Bruce Ciapessoni, Elisa Ciapessoni, Bob F. Hansen, Hansen Enterprises, R&H Agri-Enterprises, Eldora Rossi, Rossi & Ciapessoni Farms, and Rossi & Rossi.Top
You will need to decide whether you wish to join this lawsuit as a Class Member. You are not part of the Class unless and until you fill out the Class Action Opt-In Notice Form that was mailed to you. If you did not receive the Opt-In Notice Form, you can access it here.
Class Members wishing to participate in this class action must join or “opt-in” to this lawsuit. If you fit the description in the next question, you may opt-in and join this lawsuit.
Please Note: This “opt-in” procedure is different from the procedure in most other class action lawsuits in the United States because, if do you do nothing, you will NOT be able to participate in the lawsuit as a Class member.
Under the Rules of the United States Court of Federal Claims, the Court has allowed the lawsuit to be a class action on behalf of the following:
All producers whose Natural Seedless raisins were acquired by handlers in the 2002–2003, 2003–2004, 2005–2006, 2006–2007, 2007–2008, 2008–2009, and 2009–2010 crop years. Excluded from the Class are all Producers named as plaintiffs in Evans v. United States, No. 06-439 (Fed. Cl.),2 from any claim concerning a crop year prior to the 2007–2008 crop year. The Evans plaintiffs may opt in for the crop years 2007-2008, 2008–2009, and 2009–2010.
Producers of Zantes, or currants, are not included in the Class. That means that someone who produced both Natural Seedless and Zantes can only make a claim for their Natural Seedless reserve raisins.
Producers that delivered to Marvin and Laura Horne, d/b/a Raisin Valley Farms and Raisin Valley Farms Marketing Association and/or any other handler that did not participate in the reserve are excluded from the class.
If you choose to participate in this lawsuit and to be bound by the outcome of this litigation, including by any and all decisions of the court, and potentially participate in any recovery that may result from this lawsuit, it is extremely important that you read, sign, and return the Class Action Opt-In Notice Form electronically via this website that Class Counsel has established for this litigation, or by mail or facsimile to Class Counsel. You can submit a Class Action Opt-In Notice Form online on the "Opt-In" page of this website or by returning the Opt-In Notice Form that was sent to you.
The Class Action Opt-In Notice Form must be faxed, postmarked, or delivered no later than October 6, 2017.
If you are eligible to be a Class Member and join the Class, you will receive any monetary or other benefits obtained from the lawsuit. A judgment in this case will be binding on you, meaning you could not pursue your own separate lawsuit using your own attorney. Similarly, you may be bound by, and can share in, any settlement reached on behalf of the class. In the event Class Counsel and the United States reach a settlement, you will receive notice of the settlement and you may object to the settlement and be heard by the Court on your objection. In the case of any settlement reached before entry of judgment, Class Counsel may, or may not, seek to decertify the litigation class and recertify a settlement class, which would allow any Class members that previously opted-in to decide whether to join the settlement class at that time. It is not guaranteed, however, that a settlement would be reached that would agree to such recertification, or that Class Counsel would seek such recertification.
Any person or entity who submits a Class Action Opt-In Notice Form to join the Class need not appear in Court in order to participate. If you become a Class Member, your interests will be represented by the Class Representatives and Class Counsel. Ultimately, the Court will rule on whether you are entitled to compensation and, if so, the amount of compensation owed to you.
In order to join the Class, you must submit a Class Action Opt-In Notice Form by October 6, 2017. This means your Class Action Opt-In Notice Form must either be submitted electronically on the "Opt-In" page of this website, submitted by facsimile, postmarked, or hand delivered by October 6, 2017.
You will not have to pay any money to participate in the Class Action. If the Class is successful in this litigation, however, Class Counsel will ask the Court’s permission to be compensated for litigating this case and representing the Class. As noted above, any sums received by Class Counsel in compensation will be deducted from any recovery, which will proportionately reduce the amount of any award each Class Member receives. If the case is unsuccessful, you will have no obligation for attorneys’ fees or costs.Top
If you do not submit a Class Action Opt-In Notice Form electronically, postmarked, faxed, or hand delivered on or before October 6, 2017, you cannot participate as a Class Member in this case. As a result, you would not receive any money or benefits from the Court as a result of this lawsuit. However, you would keep the right, if you have any, to proceed, with or without your own hired legal counsel, to sue the United States separately, and you would not be legally bound by any decision of the Court in this class action.Top
If you become a Class member and the Class is successful and obtains money as a result of a judgment or a settlement, you will be notified about how to participate and receive your share. The parties at this time do not know whether any recovery will occur or how long it will take to resolve this case.Top
If the case is not resolved before trial by a settlement, summary judgment, or otherwise, then Class Counsel will have to prove the claims of Plaintiffs and the Class at trial, as well as the damages to the Class. As noted above, the United States will contend that the members of the Class actually benefitted from the reserve program by, among other things, the program supporting prices for free-tonnage raisins and sales of raisins that were higher than what those prices and sales would have been without the program. The parties are currently in the pre-trial discovery phase, during which they are exchanging information about the facts of the case. At any trial, the judge would hear all of the evidence to reach a decision about whether the Plaintiffs and the Class or the United States is right about the claims in this case.Top
You do not need to attend the trial. The Class Counsel will present the case on behalf of all Class Members. You and/or your own lawyer are welcome, and entitled, to attend the trial at your own expense.Top
Yes. The Court has decided that attorneys at the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, led by partners M. Miller Baker, Christopher M. Murphy and Edward M. Ruckert, are qualified to represent you and all Class Members as Lead Counsel. Lead Counsel has specialized experience to handle this type of lawsuit. The Court has also decided that attorneys at the law firm of Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe LLP, led by partners Noah M. Schubert and Robert C. Schubert, are qualified to represent you and all Class Members as Co-Counsel.Top
You do not need to hire your own lawyer because Class Counsel will work on your behalf and represent your interests if you join the Class. You have the right to have your own lawyer. Your own lawyer can appear in court for you, if you want someone other than Class Counsel to speak on your behalf. If you choose to hire your own lawyer, you will have to pay that lawyer.Top
Please see our Contact Us page for additional information.Top
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