810 F.3d 580 (8th Cir. 2016), 14-3758, Downing v. Riceland Foods, Inc.

Docket Nº:14-3758
Citation:810 F.3d 580
Opinion Judge:SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Don M. Downing; Adam J. Levitt; Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLC on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated; Looper Reed & McGraw, P.C. on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated; Gray Ritter & Graham, PC on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, Plaintiffs v. Riceland Foods, Inc., Defendant Riceland ...
Attorney:For Riceland Foods, Counter Claimant - Appellant: Kimberly M. Bousquet, Christopher Martin Hohn, John R. Musgrave, THOMPSON & COBURN, Saint Louis, MO. For Don M. Downing, Counter Defendant - Appellee: Don Manley Downing, Gretchen Garrison, GRAY & RITTER, Saint Louis, MO; Todd E. Hilton, STUEVE & ...
Judge Panel:Before LOKEN, BENTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:January 14, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
SUMMARY

Plaintiffs filed a class action against Riceland, requesting the district court compel Riceland to contribute a portion of its recoveries in various cases to the common benefit fund established by the district court to compensate plaintiffs for their legal work. The district court dismissed Riceland's counterclaims of breach of contract and tortious interference and certified the dismissal as a... (see full summary)

 
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Page 580

810 F.3d 580 (8th Cir. 2016)

Don M. Downing; Adam J. Levitt; Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLC on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated; Looper Reed & McGraw, P.C. on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated; Gray Ritter & Graham, PC on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, Plaintiffs

v.

Riceland Foods, Inc., Defendant Riceland Foods, Counter Claimant - Appellant

v.

Don M. Downing; Adam J. Levitt, Counter Defendants - Appellees

Riceland Foods, Inc., Counter Claimant - Appellant

v.

Don M. Downing; Gray Ritter & Graham; Adam J. Levitt, as Co-Trustee of the Common Benefit Trust Fund; Looper Reed & McGraw, P.C. on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated; Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLC on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, Counter Defendants - Appellees

No. 14-3758

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 14, 2016

Submitted September 22, 2015

Page 581

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

For Riceland Foods, Counter Claimant - Appellant: Kimberly M. Bousquet, Christopher Martin Hohn, John R. Musgrave, THOMPSON & COBURN, Saint Louis, MO.

For Don M. Downing, Counter Defendant - Appellee: Don Manley Downing, Gretchen Garrison, GRAY & RITTER, Saint Louis, MO; Todd E. Hilton, STUEVE & SIEGEL, Kansas City, MO; Michael M. Liskow, WOLF & HALDENSTEIN, New York, NY.

For Adam J. Levitt, Counter Defendant - Appellee: Don Manley Downing, Gretchen Garrison, GRAY & RITTER, Saint Louis, MO; Todd E. Hilton, STUEVE & SIEGEL, Kansas City, MO; Stacey T. Kelly, WOLF & HALDENSTEIN, New York, NY.

For Riceland Foods, Inc., Counter Claimant - Appellant: Kimberly M. Bousquet, Christopher Martin Hohn, John R. Musgrave, THOMPSON & COBURN, Saint Louis, MO.

For Don M. Downing, Gray Ritter & Graham, Adam J. Levitt, as Co-Trustee of the Common Benefit Trust Fund, Looper Reed & McGraw, P.C. on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLC on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, Counter Defendant - Appellee: Don Manley Downing, Gretchen Garrison, GRAY & RITTER, Saint Louis, MO; Todd E. Hilton, STUEVE & SIEGEL, Kansas City, MO; Stacey T. Kelly, WOLF & HALDENSTEIN, New York, NY; Michael M. Liskow, WOLF & HALDENSTEIN, New York, NY; Patrick Joseph Stueve, Bradley Wilders, STUEVE & SIEGEL, Kansas City, MO.

Before LOKEN, BENTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs, a group of attorneys who performed work on behalf of farmers in underlying multi-district litigation regarding

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genetically-modified rice, brought a class action suit against Riceland Foods, Inc. (" Riceland" ), requesting the district court compel Riceland to contribute a portion of its recoveries in various cases to the common benefit fund established by the district court to compensate Plaintiffs for their work. In response to Plaintiffs' unjust enrichment and quantum meruit claims, Riceland counterclaimed, asserting breach of contract and tortious interference claims. The district court1 dismissed Riceland's counterclaims and certified the dismissal as a final judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Riceland argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this appeal because the district court erred in certifying the dismissal as a final judgment under Rule 54(b). Riceland further contends that the district court erred in dismissing its counterclaims because a settlement agreement expressly released Riceland from Plaintiffs' claims because the claims " arise out of, accrue on account of, or grow out of" the presence of genetically-modified rice in the United States rice supply. We affirm.

I.

Beginning in 2006, hundreds of long-grain rice farmers and rice mills filed suit against Bayer CropScience (" Bayer" ) following an announcement by the United States Department of Agriculture (" USDA" ) that LLRICE, a genetically-modified rice which had not been approved for human consumption, had tainted the United States commercial long-grain rice supply. In more than two hundred LLRICE cases, Riceland was named as a defendant with Bayer. The cases were originally filed in multiple states, but were consolidated into a multi-district litigation (" MDL" ) case in the Eastern District of Missouri. See In Re Genetically Modified Rice Litigation, No. 4:06-MD-1811-CDP, 2010 WL 716190 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 24, 2010).

The district court appointed Plaintiffs Don Downing (" Downing" ) and Adam Levitt (" Levitt" ) as co-lead counsel for the MDL plaintiffs and created a " Plaintiffs' Executive Committee" consisting of six other attorneys. Collectively, these eight attorneys constituted the " MDL Leadership Group." The district court also ordered that a common benefit trust fund (the " fund" ), with Downing and Levitt as co-trustees, be established to compensate attorneys for services performed for the benefit of all plaintiffs. The order required a portion of any recovery obtained by the plaintiff farmers in federal court to be contributed to the fund to pay fees and expenses of attorneys who performed work benefitting all of the plaintiff farmers. Contributions to the fund could also be made in related state court cases if so ordered by the state court, but the district court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to order contributions to the fund in state court cases. We affirmed the district court's establishment of the fund as well as the district court's jurisdictional ruling regarding state cases. See In Re Genetically Modified Rice Litig., 764 F.3d 864, 873 (8th Cir. 2014).

Following trial or settlement in the LLRICE cases, Bayer, the Negotiating Claimants' Counsel, and each Enrolled Claimant and Eligible Claimant entered into a Settlement Agreement.2 The Settlement

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Agreement included a General Release of All Claims (the " Release" ), in which each farmer (" Settling Claimant" ) and each farmer's attorney (" Settling Claimant Releasing Party" ) released their claims against Bayer. In the Release, Riceland was listed as an " Additional Released Party."

The Release provides, in relevant part, that the Settling Claimant and any Settling Claimant Releasing Party " hereby releases, acquits, and forever discharges" the Bayer Released Parties and...

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