Reserve Raisins Class Action

Reserve Raisins Class Action

Welcome to the Reserve Raisins Class Action Website

This website has been established under the order of a federal court to provide general information related to the litigation entitled Bruce Ciapessoni, et al.,  v. the United States.

Please read the website carefully and fully. It provides a summary of a proposed settlement of this class-action litigation and your options to join or withdraw from the class action lawsuit, if you haven't already. The proposed Settlement Agreement, Notices, and other forms are available on the Case Documents tab. All terms used herein are defined in the Settlement Agreement.

The Court is neither encouraging nor discouraging individuals from joining this lawsuit. This website is intended to advise you of updates to the litigation entitled Bruce Ciapessoni, Elisa Ciapessoni, Bob F. Hansen, Hansen Enterprises, R&H Agri-Enterprises, Eldora Rossi, Rossi & Ciapessoni Farms, and Rossi & Rossi v. the United States of America and of your rights. This includes the right to receive a payment under the Settlement Agreement if you already properly opted in to the Class, become a new member of the Class as a Deemed Settlement Class Member, withdraw from the Class if you previously opted in, and object to the Settlement Agreement.

What is this lawsuit about?

In 1949, the Secretary of Agriculture issued the California Raisin Handling Order (“the Marketing Order”). 14 Fed. Reg. 5136, 5136 (Aug. 18, 1949) (codified as amended at 7 C.F.R. pt. 989). 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 (the “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 benefited 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.

What is the Settlement Amount?

To settle this lawsuit, Plaintiffs, on behalf of all Class members, and the United States Government have negotiated and signed a Settlement Agreement, which has already been preliminarily approved by the Court. Under the terms of this Settlement Agreement, the United States Government will pay $85,000,000.00 (the "Settlement Amount") to settle all the claims of all the Opt-In Class Members and to pay Plaintiffs' attorney fees and other fees and expenses associated with this litigation and settlement, as stated in the Settlement Agreement. The proposed Settlement Agreement also requires the United States Government to pay between $0.00 and $3,000,000.00 (the "Supplemental Settlement Amount") to settle all the potential claims of raisin producers that were potential Class members but are not the litigation's Plaintiffs, are not Opt-In Class Members, and are not parties to the related litigation, Lion Farms, LLC v. United States, (Fed. C1. No. 1:15-cv-00915-LAS), and that, during a 30-day period allowed for by the Settlement Agreement, agreed to be bound by the agreement ("Deemed Settlement Class Members"). For more information, refer to the Settlement Agreement on the Case Documents tab.

How can I join the Class if I did not previously join in?

Deadline for Submission: The Agreement to Be Bound form that eligible persons received in the mail must have been faxed, postmarked, or delivered no later than September 2, 2019. If you do not wish to participate in the lawsuit, you need not take any action.

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.

What if I need more information or have additional questions?

If you have additional questions, you may review the Case Documents on this website or call the Settlement Administrator at 1-866-763-9930. If neither the website nor the Settlement Administrator is able to answer your question, then you may contact Co-Counsel or Lead Counsel:

Noah M. Schubert, Esq. (Co-Counsel)
Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe LLP
3 Embarcadero Center, Suite 1650
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 788-4220
nschubert@sjk.law

Christopher M. Murphy, Esq. (Lead Counsel)
McDermott Will & Emery LLP
444 W. Lake Street, Suite 4000
Chicago, IL 60606-0029
(312) 372-2000
cmurphy@mwe.com

Although the information on this website is intended to assist you, it does not replace the information contained in the Reserve Raisin Class Action Notice. We recommend that you read the Notice and other relevant case documents carefully.