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Topashaw Farms Processing, LLC v. Forest City-Weingart Produce Co., Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 13, 2017

TOPASHAW FARMS PROCESSING, LLC d/b/a TOPASHAW FARMS PACKING, MS, et al., Plaintiff,
v.
FOREST CITY-WEINGART PRODUCE CO., INC., ANDREW J. WEINGART, and JAMES B. WEINGART, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Jonathan D. Greenberg United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 73.1(a). Currently pending is Farm-Wey Produce, Inc.'s Motion for Leave to Intervene and File PACA Proof of Claim Out of Time. (Doc. No. 93.) For the following reasons, Farm-Wey Produce's Motion is GRANTED.

         I. Procedural Background

         On March 16, 2017, Plaintiff Topashaw Farms Processing, LLC (hereinafter “Topashaw”) filed this action against Defendants Forest-City Weingart Produce Co., Inc., Andrew Weingart, and James Weingart. (Doc. No. 1). Among other things, the Complaint asserts various claims under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (“PACA”), 7 U.S.C. §§ 499a - 499t, based on Defendant Forest-City's alleged failure to pay Topashaw for approximately $200, 000 in produce Topashaw sold to Forest-City between September 2014 and January 2017. (Id.) In particular, Topashaw seeks to enforce payment from Defendant Forest-City from the statutory trust imposed under PACA.[1]

         On September 21, 2017, the Court entered its final approval (Doc. No. 35) of a Consent Injunction and Agreed Order (hereinafter “Agreed Order”) establishing a PACA trust fund and claims procedure in order to “provide a procedural framework to review, qualify, verify, and satisfy any and all claims against the PACA Trust Assets, to maximize the recovery for all unpaid beneficiaries of the PACA trust and to ensure the rights of all potential PACA claimants are efficiently addressed in a single proceeding.” (Doc. No. 22 at 3.) In particular, the Agreed Order set deadlines for creditors to file PACA Proofs of Claim, Complaints in Intervention, Objections to Claims, Responses to Objections, etc. (Doc. No. 22.)

         Of particular relevance herein, the Agreed Order provides a deadline of October 11, 2017 for creditors to file PACA Proofs of Claim and Complaints in Intervention.[2] (Id. at ¶ 24.) The Agreed Order expressly states as follows:

27. ANY SUPPLIER OR CREDITOR WHO FAILS TO TIMELY FILE A PACA PROOF OF CLAIM WITH THE COURT SHALL BE FOREVER BARRED FROM ASSERTING ANY CLAIM UNDER PACA AGAINST THE COMPANY, THE PACA TRUST ASSETS, OTHER PACA CLAIMANTS, THE DEFENDANTS, OR ANY OTHER THIRD PARTY.


(Doc. No. 22 at ¶ 27.)

         A number of creditors filed Complaints in Intervention and/or PACA Proofs of Claim prior to or on the October 11, 2017 deadline. (Doc. Nos. 17, 29, 41, 42, 44, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 64, 65, 66, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77.) Objections to PACA Claims were due by November 13, 2017. (Doc. No. 22 at ¶ 24.) The record reflects various Objections were filed by both Topashaw and Defendants. (Doc. Nos. 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91.) Under the Agreed Order, Responses to Claims Objections are due no later than December 13, 2017. (Doc. No. 22 at ¶ 24.)

         On November 27, 2017, [3] Farm Wey-Produce filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene and File PACA Proof of Claim Out of Time. (Doc. No. 93.) Defendants filed a Brief in Opposition on December 5, 2017, to which Farm-Wey replied. (Doc. Nos. 94, 97.)

         II. Analysis

         In its motion, Farm-Wey seeks leave to intervene as a matter of right under Fed. R. Civ.

         P. 24(a). That Rule provides:

On timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who ... claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). The Sixth Circuit has interpreted the above Rule to require an applicant to show the following: (1) the application was timely filed; (2) the applicant has a substantial legal interest in the case; (3) the applicant's ability to protect that interest will be impaired in the absence of intervention; and (4) the existing parties will not adequately represent the applicant's interest. Blount-Hill v. Zelman, 636 F.3d 278, 283 (6th Cir. 2011). See also Atlas Noble, LLC v. Krizman Enterprises, 692 Fed.Appx. 256, 268 (6th Cir. May 23, 2017); Davis v. Lifetime Capital, Inc., 560 Fed.Appx. 477, 489 (6th Cir. March 18, 2014). “Each of these elements is mandatory, and therefore failure to satisfy any one of the elements will defeat intervention under the Rule.” Blount-Hill, 636 F.3d at 283. See also Grubbs v. Norris, 870 F.2d 343, 345 (6th Cir. 1989) (stating that “failure to meet [any] one of the [four] criteria will require that the motion to intervene be denied.”); Davis, 560 Fed.Appx. at 489.

         In considering whether a proposed intervenor satisfies the above four-part test, “the factual circumstances considered under Rule 24(a) should be ‘broadly construed in favor of potential intervenors.'” Davis, 560 Fed.Appx. at 489-490 (quoting Purnell v. City of Akron, 925 F.2d 941, 950 (6th Cir. 1991). “[C]lose cases should be resolved in favor of recognizing an interest under Rule 24(a).” Grutter v. Bollinger, 188 F.3d 394, 399 (6th Cir. 1999). See also Davis, 560 Fed.Appx. at 490.

         The Court will address each of ...


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