Type: News
Date: 12/10/2009

Taft Victory in Alpaca Farms Case

Taft lawyers have won a  victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in a case decided on December 8th,  Magical Farms, Inc., et al. v. Land O’Lakes, Inc., et al.
Taft represented two alpaca farms in Medina County,Ohio: Magical Farms, one of the largest alpaca farms in the United States, and a small neighboring farm, Majestic Meadows. The Farms sought damages for the monetary losses they sustained when over 300 alpacas they owned were either killed or permanently injured as a result of eating contaminated feed manufactured by Land O’Lakes.
Taft won a jury verdict of $1.6 million in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, but appealed the decision because the award did not sufficiently compensate the Farms’ losses and because the  jury was not allowed to consider the Farms’ fraud claim or their claim for punitive damages against the manufacturer.
A panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in the Farms’ favor and ordered  the case returned to the District Court for a new trial, to include the Farms’ fraud claim and punitive damage claim.
The Appeals Court found that there was sufficient evidence to warrant presentation of the Farms’ punitive damages claim to the jury, including evidence that Land O’Lakes had ignored its own Quality Assurance Manual by manufacturing alpaca feed in the same plant and in the same equipment where it mixed chicken feed–a product which contains salinomycin, an antibiotic that Land O’Lakes knew was highly toxic to alpacas.
The Court of Appeals also recognized that the jury should have been permitted to consider the Farms’ fraud claim based on evidence that the manufacturer provided a "guaranteed analysis" of the alpaca feed’s contents to purchasers in utter disregard of the truth or falsity of representations about the ingredients in feed manufactured under circumstances where contamination was likely.
Additionally, the Appeals Court found that one of the jury instructions given at the trial confused the jury, causing it to improperly reduce the damages awarded to the Farms.
A new trial date has not yet been determined.
Taft’s Robert Valerian was lead lawyer at the trial in District Court.  Mark Jacobs represented the Farms at oral argument before the Court of Appeals. Mr. Jacobs and Amelia Workman Farago wrote the Appellate briefs with assistance from Philip R. Bautista.

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