Reserve Raisins Class Action

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is this lawsuit about?
  2. Why did I receive this Notice?
  3. What is requested in this lawsuit?
  4. Who are the class representatives or Plaintiffs?
  5. Am I part of this lawsuit?
  6. Who is eligible to be a member of the Class?
  7. What happens once I join the Class?
  8. Will joining the Class cost me any money?
  9. Will I get any money from the settlement?
  10. How and when will the Court rule on the settlement?
  11. May I object to the proposed Settlement Agreement?
  12. May I withdraw from the Settlement Class?
  13. Do I have a lawyer in this case?
  14. Should I get my own lawyer?
  15. How can I get more information?
  16. How can I change my address?
  17. When will I get paid?
  1. What is this lawsuit about?

    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”).

    The parties subsequently entered into a Settlement Agreement, which, if finally approved, would settle all the claims raised in this matter and bind all persons who opted in to the certified class to its terms. On July 18, 2019, the Court preliminarily approved the Settlement Agreement. The parties will present the Settlement Agreement to the Court for final approval during a Fairness Hearing on October 8, 2019.

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  2. Why did I receive this Notice?

    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.  The Notice informs you of your rights under the Settlement Agreement. 

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  3. What is requested in this lawsuit?

    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—sought 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%). If the case proceeded 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 during or after trial.

    • The award of any other relief that the Court deems just and proper.

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  4. Who are the class representatives or Plaintiffs?

    Bruce Ciapessoni, Elisa Ciapessoni, Bob F. Hansen, Hansen Enterprises, R&H Agri-Enterprises, Eldora Rossi, Rossi & Ciapessoni Farms, and Rossi & Rossi.

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  5. Am I part of this lawsuit?

    You are part of this lawsuit if you previously joined (or "opted in" to) the lawsuit or are a member of either Sun-Maid Growers of California ("Sun-Maid") or the Raisin Bargaining Association ("RBA") (collectively, “Opt-In Class Members”). If you did not previously Opt In and you are not a member of either Sun-Maid or RBA, you will need to decide whether you wish to join this lawsuit as a Deemed Class Member. As a Potential Deemed Class Member, you are not part of the Class unless and until you fill out the Agreement to Be Bound form that was mailed to you.

    Potential Deemed Settlement Class Members wishing to participate in this class action must join or “agree to be bound” by this lawsuit. If you fit the description in the next question, you may agree to be bound and join this lawsuit.  If you are a Potential Deemed Settlement Class Member and do not submit an Agreement to Be Bound, 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.

    The Agreement to Be Bound form must be faxed, postmarked, or submitted electronically via this website on or before September 2, 2019.

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  6. Who is eligible to be a member of the Class?

    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.), from any claim concerning a crop year prior to the 2007–2008 crop year. The Evans plaintiffs were eligible to 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.

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  7. What happens once I join the Class?

    If you are an Opt-in Class Member or are eligible to be a Deemed 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.  

    If you are an Opt-in Class Member or become a Deemed 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. 

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  8. Will joining the Class cost me any money?

    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.

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  9. Will I get any money from the settlement?

    Payments will be made to Opt-In Class Members in accordance with the formula in Exhibit A to the Settlement Agreement, while payments will be made to Deemed Settlement Class Members in accordance with the formula in Exhibit B to the Settlement Agreement.  Any amount due to you would be paid to you by check sent from the Settlement Administrator.  The distribution will occur several months after the Fairness Hearing. Under the Settlement Agreement, you have 365 days to cash your check.  If you do not cash your check within 365 days from the date that it is issued, the check will become void and the amount of the check will be returned to, and be the property of, the United States.

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  10. How and when will the Court rule on the settlement?

    A public hearing ("Fairness Hearing") is scheduled for October 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm before the Honorable Loren A. Smith at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. At the hearing, the parties will request that the Court finally approve the proposed settlement as fair, reasonable, and adequate.  Only Opt-In Class Members who have provided timely written comments or objections to the Settlement Agreement and timely written notice of the intention to participate in the Fairness Hearing will be permitted to so participate.

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  11. May I object to the proposed Settlement Agreement?

    If you previously Opted-In to the lawsuit or if you are included as an affiliate class member as a member of Sun-Maid Growers of California ("Sun-Maid") or the Raisin Bargaining Association ("RBA") that joined (or "opted in" to) the lawsuit on behalf of their members, you may submit an objection to the Settlement Agreement.

    Any objection must state in writing whether the objection applies only to you, to a specific subset of the class, or to the entire class, state with specificity the grounds for the objection, and include your name, address, phone number, email address, and the control number printed under your address on page 1 of the notice you received. If you are represented by an attorney in submitting an objection, you must also identify the full name, address, phone number, and email address of your attorney. To be considered by the Court, all objections to the Settlement Agreement must be sent by U.S. mail, postmarked on or before September 2, 2019, to:

    Reserve Raisins Class Action 
    c/o KCC Class Action Services
    OBJECTIONS
    P.O. Box 404011
    Louisville, KY 40233-4011

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  12. May I withdraw from the Settlement Class?

    If you previously opted-in to the lawsuit, you have the right to request withdrawal from the Settlement Class. If you are permitted to withdraw from the Settlement Class, you will not receive any money from this settlement.  You must send your request to withdraw by U.S. mail, postmarked on or before September 2, 2019, to the following address:

    Reserve Raisins Class Action 
    c/o KCC Class Action Services 
    WITHDRAWALS
    P.O. Box 404011
    Louisville, KY 40233-4011

    If you did not previously opt-in to the lawsuit and are a member of Sun-Maid Growers of California ("Sun-Maid") or the Raisin Bargaining Association ("RBA") that joined (or "opted in" to) the lawsuit on behalf of their members, you have the right to withdraw from the Settlement Class. If you withdraw from the Settlement Class, you will not receive any money from this settlement. To withdraw from the Settlement Class as an Affiliate Class Member, you must complete the Withdrawal Form that was mailed to Sun-Maid and RBA members that did not previously opt in and send the completed form by U.S. mail, postmarked on or before September 2, 2019, to the following address:

    Reserve Raisins Class Action 
    c/o KCC Class Action Services 
    WITHDRAWALS
    P.O. Box 404011
    Louisville, KY 40233-4011

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  13. Do I have a lawyer in this case?

    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.

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  14. Should I get my own lawyer?

    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.

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  15. How can I get more information?

    Please see our Contact Us page for additional information.

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  16. How can I change my address?

    Please email your request for an address change to info@reserveraisinsclassaction.com. Include the both the current and former addresses along with your claim ID and full name. 

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  17. When will I get paid?

    The Treasury Department is paying the settlement on a claim-by-claim basis as it screens class members for delinquent debts to the federal government. We expect to begin processing payments in December 2019 and that payments will continue through first quarter of 2020.  Please watch your mail for your check and other information from us related to the settlement.

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