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Food Authority, Inc v. Sweet & Savory Fine Foods

February 4, 2011

FOOD AUTHORITY, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SWEET & SAVORY FINE FOODS, INC. D/B/A S&S FINE FOODS AND ROCCO MACCHIA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Seybert, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

On January 21, 2011, the parties attended a pre-motion conference to discuss Plaintiff's letter request to move for summary judgment. After considering the parties' pleadings, previously submitted preliminary injunction papers, Rule 56.1 Statements, pre-motion conference letters, and pre-motion conference oral argument*fn1 ,

the Court concluded that the relevant facts were undisputed, and the applicable legal issues were uncomplicated.*fn2 So, rather than have the parties brief Plaintiff's motion, the Court instead granted Plaintiff's summary judgment motion, made orally at the conference, and directed the parties to prepare submissions limited to damages and pre-judgment interest.

Below, the Court: (1) explains its reasons for granting summary judgment on January 21, 2011; (2) awards Plaintiff a judgment on its claims; and (3) awards Plaintiff attorneys' fees and costs.

BACKGROUND

This is a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act ("PACA") case. Under PACA, produce sellers become the beneficiaries of a constructive, statutory trust that lasts until they get paid. This trust consists of all produce-related assets, including produce inventory, receipts, and accounts receivable.

In this case, Plaintiff sold $52,110.25 worth of goods to Defendant Sweet & Savory Fine Foods, Inc. ("Sweet & Savory"), including $48,826.45 worth of produce protected by a PACA trust. Pl.

56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 6, 8. Sweet & Savory's President, Defendant Rocco Macchia held a position of control over the PACA trust assets, and also personally guaranteed Sweet & Savory's debts to Plaintiff. Id.

¶¶ 3, 5. Mr. Macchia's personal guaranty provided that he would pay "all reasonable costs and attorney's fees necessary for collection, and enforcement of this guaranty." Id. ¶ 5; Am. Compl. Ex. A.

After selling the goods, Plaintiff sent invoices to Defendants that contained the PACA trust language required by 7 U.S.C. § 499e(c)(4). Pl. 56. 1 Stmt. ¶ 8; Pl. Motion for Prelim. Inj. Exs. 2, 4. However, these invoices incorrectly identified Sweet & Savory as "S&S," and listed the wrong address. Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8; Pl. Motion for Prelim. Inj. Exs. 2, 4. "S&S Fine Foods" functioned as one of Sweet & Savory's registered assumed names, but was not the entity's formal legal name. Def. Pre-Motion Letter at 1. Despite these technical imperfections, Defendants do not dispute that they actually received the invoices. And, in their Amended Answer, Defendants expressly admitted that "Plaintiff sold to Defendants $52,110.25, of which $48,826.45 is due under the PACA," and further admitted that the entire $52,110.25 remains due. Am. Answer ¶¶ 6-7.

No factual issues are in dispute. However, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's PACA claims fail because the invoices directed to "S&S" failed to strictly comply with PACA's notice provisions. And Defendants further contend that the Court lacks supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's common law contract claims, including the claim to enforce Mr. Macchia's personal guarantee.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

"Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no genuine disputes concerning any material facts, and where the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Harvis Trien & Beck, P.C. v. Fed. Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (In re Blackwood Assocs., ...


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