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Kingsburg Apple Packers Inc. v. Ballantine Produce Co.

February 18, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anthony W. Ishii Chief United States District Judge


(Doc. No. 119)

On October 28, 2009, this court issued an order that directed DiBuduo Land Management Company ("DiBuduo") to file a motion with the court to determine the validity of its Perishable and Agricultural and Commodities Act ("PACA") claims. See Doc. No. 116. DiBuduo complied and filed its motion the same day. Kingsburg Group and Bank of the West oppose the motion and assert that DiBuduo's claims are invalid because DiBuduo's Notice of Intent to Preserve Trust Benefits ("Notice of Intent") was served late. For the reasons described below, the court finds that DiBuduo failed to preserve its PACA trust claims.


DiBuduo sold and delivered to Ballantine Produce Co. ("Ballantine") perishable agricultural commodities on credit. See DiBuduo Proof of Claim dated July 29, 2009. DiBuduo was not licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA") as a PACA licensee during the period applicable to the transactions. DiBuduo shipped produce to Ballantine between November and December 2008, and delivered shipments in January 2009. Ballantine received and accepted the produce. DiBuduo received accountings from Ballantine in December 2008, and January 2009. DiBuduo alleges that there is no evidence that it entered into a post-default written agreement for different terms.

On June 19, 2009, DiBuduo served a Notice of Intent upon Ballantine. The June 19, 2009 Notice of Intent provides, in pertinent part:

DiBuduo ... expressly states its intent to preserve trust benefits relating to the commodities described in this notice... The dates of the transactions between the parties to which this notice applies are open and unpaid invoices for deliveries of 2008 commodities (described below) dated January 2, January 8, and January 15, 2009.

See Exhibit A to DiBuduos Motion to Determine Validity of PACA Claims.

According to DiBuduo, it did not send its Notice of Intent prior to June 19, 2009 because Jerry DiBuduo (DiBuduo's president) relied on the representations of principals and managing agents of Ballantine that DiBuduo would be promptly paid for the fruit deliveries. DiBuduo contends that it reasonably relied upon those representations, especially since Jerry DiBuduo personally knew David Albertson ("Albertson"), the treasurer and principal of Ballantine. The Notice of Intent addressed the representations of Albertson as follows:

Trust claimant through its principal, Jerry DiBuduo was repeatedly advised by Ballantine's principal, David Albertson, that "it was not a question of whether but when" claimant would be paid. Over a two and one half year period, Jerry DiBuduo was negotiating the sale of a property co-owned with Ballantine and later in February 2009 Mr. DiBuduo negotiated the purchase of a Ballantine owned property and as part of those negotiations, was assured that trust claimant's account would be brought current so that sufficient cash would be available for closing the transactions. The first transaction was concluded and trust claimant's grower account partially paid as a result of trust claimant's continued diligence.

The second transaction never materialized but representations were made to Jerry DiBuduo which he reasonably relied on in delaying trust claimant's assertion of this claim. Ballantine at least partially paid when in connection with the first escrow.

Throughout February and March 2009 after trust claimant's repeated requests, some payments were made on the account albeit late payments. These delays interrupted claimant's cash flow and caused claimant to borrow substantial advances on a personal line of credit to pay ordinary operating expenses. From the weeks of March 6, through the week of March 23, 2009, trust claimant received $25,000 per week to reduce the outstanding claim along with further assurances of full payment.

In April 2009, trust claimant was informed by John Pelton, then acting as Ballantine's CEO, that a dispute arose concerning the settlement of the first property transaction and payments were going to be suspended. After trust clamant [sic] promptly provided requested evidence, Mr. Pelton submitted the error and on April 20, 2009, assured trust claimant that he would be paid in full by the first week of May 2009. No payments have been received as of the date of presentation of this claim, less than 45 days after the date by which trust claimant was assured by the then acting CEO of Ballantine that trust claimant would be paid.

Trust claimant has repeatedly pursued payment but was assured payment was forthcoming. Trust claimant received some payments and therefore reasonably relied on the statements. Neither Mr. Albertson nor Mr. Pelton ever ...

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