Florida Court Issues Sanctions on Costa Rican Farm for Continued Sale of Del Monte Pineapples

The Southern District of Florida issued an order on Tuesday adopting portions of a previous recommendation and finding a Costa Rican company, Inversiones Y Procesadora Tropical Inprotsa S.A. in contempt for not complying with an order requiring it to stop growing and selling certain pineapples but rejecting a $16.4 million disgorgement sanction request. 

The report and recommendation was given by Magistrate Judge Lauren Louis in July 2020. In this recommendation, the judge ruled to issue the defendant a fine of over $200,000 for attorneys fees. The report, however, did not grant damages due to the continued growth and sale of pineapples after the judgment through 2018, although Del Monte sought $16 million. The court in its present order agreed with the previous decision to decline the disgorgement request, ruling that Del Monte had not given money to the defendant which should be returned. 

The lawsuit, which was filed by Del Monte International GMBH, asked the court to require the defendant to stop growing and selling a pineapple variety which it claimed is an exclusive Del Monte product and comes from its seeds.  The plaintiff alleged that it should be entitled to damages since the alleged conduct had continued and the defendant had not complied with the award or final judgment, which required it to return or destroy 93% of the pineapple variety currently growing and return the seeds. 

The court previously determined that Del Monte met its burden to show that the ruling was not being followed and the defendant should be held in contempt. Although some portions of the recommendation were approved through the last year, the final portions including the ruling on sanctions, “whether disgorgement of revenues is a proper measure of damages for contempt,” and whether attorneys fees should be awarded to Del Monte were not approved until the present order signed by Judge Federico Moreno. The court explained that sanctions could not be given until Inprosta had the opportunity to respond and show why they had not followed the orders. 

Since the recommendation was first approved, each party filed an objection to the recommendation and a response to the other party’s objection. Additionally, the court issued a separate order to show cause in October 2020, which the petitioner responded to in November. Addressing the current order, the court said it reviewed the entire file before adopting the remaining portions of the report and recommendation. 

The court said that “there is no dispute in this case that Inprotsa did not comply with either the destruction or sales injunctions.” It addressed arguments from the defendant that the judgment was both unclear and “unlawful” because the court cannot “enforce an extraterritorial mandatory injunction.”

Addressing the jurisdiction argument, the court reiterated its previous conclusion that Inprotsa did not raise the argument either in the district court or in the appellate court and that it is not proper to raise the argument at this point but would have been before the final judgment. The court also rejected the defendant’s argument that it could not comply because of Costa Rican law saying that it could have chosen to comply.

Del Monte is represented by Stack Fernandez & Harris P.A. and Inprotsa is represented by Hogan Lovells US LLP.