Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Courts - SCOTUS denies review of Seymour-based Rose Acre Farms takings judgment
The court also declined to review Rose Acre Farms Inc. v. United States, a case in which an egg farm sued the federal government for damages after the government cracked down on potential contamination by harmful bacteria. After an outbreak of salmonella that caused hundreds of illnesses was traced back to the farm, the Department of Agriculture destroyed some of the farm's eggs and required the company to sell others on the less-lucrative market for liquid, pasteurized eggs.
Rose Acre sued USDA, claiming the company was entitled to recoup lost revenue because the government response constituted a "regulatory taking," as defined by the 5th Amendment of the Constitution. The Court of Federal Claims awarded the company $5.4 million in damages but that award was overturned last March by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Environmentalists worried that a reversal of the appeals court's decision could discourage the government from enforcing regulations.
In its petition for review, Rose Acre Farms argued that the government responded to contamination fears in a way that focused the economic impact "narrowly and devastatingly, upon egg producers generally and Rose Acre specifically."
The Supreme Court's decision to pass on the case leaves the Federal Circuit's decision as the precedent for future takings cases involving federal agencies. Because that court is the destination for nearly all appeals on federal claims cases, the ruling carries substantial weight, said Glenn Sugameli, a staff attorney with Defenders of Wildlife.
"A decision at that level is normally final right now, absent Supreme Court review," Sugameli said. If the Supreme Court had stepped in and sided with Rose Acre Farms on the takings claim, he added, "you could end up with all levels of government always erring on the side of not protecting public health."