Larsen v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., 4:06 cv -0077, Southern District of Iowa, Central Division (November 9, 2007).

Yet another stunning scoop uncovered by our diligent CAFA Bloggers. Your’s truly was standing on the floor of the commodities exchange (it was really the U.S. District Court for Iowa, but just follow us along so that the analogy works) to witness the fallout.

Everyone remembers way, way back in 1983 when the Duke Brothers tried to corner the frozen concentrate orange juice market. Well, the Dukes rebounded, obviously without the help of Clarence Beaks. This time, they were trying to manipulate the price of Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybean. (Let’s repeat that, [sigh] Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybean. Man. That is a mouthful, and not of edamame! How do we even make an acronym or shorthand reference for [sigh] Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybeans? What is up with that? I mean, we can’t use H-RRRS? Herrrs? Herbie-res beans?) I digress. 

Apparently, at least according to Gary Larsen an Iowa farmer, the Dukes had huddled with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.; Monsanto; Aventis; and Syngenta to fix the price of (sigh) Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybean. Apparently, this time, there was no phony crop report to foil their plan, and the plot worked real good. Too good.

Gary filed a class action, on behalf of farmers or farming entities who purchased (sigh) Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybean from Pioneer, in Iowa over a 10 year period. The class was loosely defined as all “persons and entities in the state of Iowa … who purchased [sigh] herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready soybean seed for delivery in the United States … from at least September 1, 1997 and continuing through the present.” (As an aside, apparently soy farming in Iowa is a big … scratch that … huge deal. How do we CAFA bloggers know you ask? Well, we did what any news sleuth would do in this situation and paid a visit to the Iowa Soybean Association website.  Here you can review the Story of Soy, Small Bean, Big Dreams, that plucky little crop that just can-do, as well as subscribe to the Iowa Soybean Review. That is good stuff!).

Knowing that Randolph and Mortimer Duke aren’t really “Heartland” types, you know that they wanted to fight this battle in Federal Court, and Pioneer obliged by removing the action to the Southern District of Iowa. The farmers, who really weren’t Randolph and Mortimer Duke-types to begin with, were outraged, and filed a motion to remand. After some wrangling, the question that the District Court faced was whether it indeed had jurisdiction under CAFA, and whether the local controversy exemption applied. 

The Court ruled that it was Pioneer’s burden to show jurisdiction existed initially because it was the party seeking refuge in the Federal system. Larsen conceded class size. Pioneer’s records showed a number of persons with out-of-state addresses had purchased (sigh) Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybean in Iowa. The Court concluded that it was a reasonable probability that at least one of those persons was a non-Iowa citizen concluding that minimum diversity was established. The Court allowed Pioneer to establish amount in controversy by relying on pleadings in other suits against Pioneer regarding (sigh) Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybeans. In those suits, there were allegations that Pioneer overcharged anywhere from $5 to $8 per bag of (sigh) Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybean. As Pioneer’s records showed that over the 10 year period defining the Larsen class it had sold over 22 million bags of (sigh) Herbicide-Resistant Roundup Ready Soybean, the Court reasoned that it satisfied the $5 million amount in controversy prong.

With jurisdiction established, Larsen bore the burden of showing that an exception under CAFA was satisfied to have the case kicked back to state court. Larsen was not so fortunate. Larsen failed to provide any proof that more than 2/3 of the plaintiff class were Iowans. Larsen relied solely on his class definition, claiming it related only to Iowans, and his “information and belief.” The Court held that Larsen failed to meet his burden, failing to consider potential plaintiffs who may have left the state within the time period or were never domiciled in the state in the first place, and denied remand.

Our story ends with the Dukes happily sipping drinks on a Caribbean Island, their yacht anchored just within view off shore. “Looking good, Morty.” “Feeling good, Randy.” The whereabouts of Jamie Lee Curtis are unknown, but there was no sight of her on this Caribbean Island.