A federal judge has ruled that an Oregon vineyard has established the legal authority to sue a neighboring cannabis developing operation. In the ruling, U.S. Senior District Judge Anna Brown discovered that Momzati Vineyard’s allegation that the proximity of the marijuana cultivation small business had triggered a “concrete monetary loss” and the lawsuit for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) could continue.
A motion from the defendants, Mary and Steven Wagner and their son Richard, to dismiss the suit due to the fact the Yamhill County vineyard’s claims of lost grape sales, lowered grape marketability, and lowered house rental earnings weren’t concrete monetary losses triggered by a RICO violation was denied by Brown with the 20-web page ruling.
Passed in the 1970s as a tool to fight organized crime, RICO permits civil suits to recover losses from an ongoing criminal enterprise. In 2015, opponents of legalized cannabis began applying RICO in states with legal pot, hoping to destroy the new sector with the fees and dangers of advertising and marketing a item nevertheless illegal beneath federal law.
“The customer’s issues, whether or not valid or invalid, arose straight from the proximity of defendants’ marijuana-develop operation,” Brown wrote.
The RICO lawsuit was filed by the owners of the vineyard, the Momzati household, earlier this year due to the continued illegality of cannabis beneath federal law. The lawsuit alleges that the Wagners are operating a “criminal enterprise” and seeks 3 occasions the damages triggered by the alleged racketeering operation.
Anti-Cannabis Bias Behind RICO Lawsuits
Alex Tinker, an lawyer who is representing a marijuana grower in a further lawsuit, stated that many comparable RICO situations have been filed, several by plaintiffs who oppose the legalization of cannabis.
“These are element of a coordinated work to fight the cannabis sector by means of the courts,” Tinker stated.
In a case against a cannabis grower in Lebanon, Oregon, a federal judge ruled that an alleged drop in plaintiff’s house values wasn’t viewed as a “compensable house injury” beneath RICO and dismissed the lawsuit. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction more than a great deal of the Western United States, has ruled that harm claims ought to be much more than “purely speculative” to proceed beneath the RICO statute.
With the good results of the Momzatis against the motion to dismiss their case, the prospective contamination of agricultural crops may well develop into a “template” for litigation against cannabis growers, according to Tinker.
“They’re hunting for strategies to build a replicable model,” Tinker stated.
Nevertheless, it will continue to be “a hard point to prove causation,” the lawyer added.
Oregon is not the only state that has legalized marijuana to see RICO lawsuits against cannabis cultivators. In November of final year, a Colorado jury discovered a cannabis grower was not accountable for alleged damages triggered by the “noxious odors” emanating from the operation. And in January, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against a cultivator in Sonoma County, California.