A comprehensive summary of today’s judicial, legislative, and regulatory developments in agriculture and food. Email important additions HERE

JUDICIAL: Includes landowner liability, labor, crop insurance, and pesticide issues.

In CITY OF MIDLAND AND WASHINGTON AQUATIC CENTER, Appellants v. HERBERT BUNCH, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF TREBREH BUNCH, Appellee, No. 11-16-00276-CV, 2017 WL 4440276 (Tex. App. September 29, 2017), appellee sued for negligence for injuries suffered when a bench broke while he was seated at an aquatic center. City, owner of the aquatic center, argued plaintiff’s claims “related to recreational use and were barred by governmental immunity.” On appeal, plaintiff argued the recreational use statute does not apply to his claims because he was “parenting” his son and was not engaged in “recreation” at the time of the injury. Court held that based on his negligence claims, appellee failed to allege sufficient facts to demonstrate the trial court’s jurisdiction. And therefore, “the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims.”

Michael T. MANAHL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. STATE of Iowa, Defendant-Appellee, No. 16-2154, 2017 WL 4317318 (Iowa Ct. App. September 27, 2017) involved a wrongful discharge claim after the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship fired plaintiff from his position as chief of the weights and measures bureau. Plaintiff claimed he was fired for pursuing “deceptive practices by a fuel company regulated by the department.” State successfully moved for summary judgment, arguing plaintiff did not meet his supervisor’s expectations for “managing staff time and scheduling annual gas-tank inspections.” Plaintiff appealed his wrongful-discharge claim. Appellate court found that “questions of material fact exist on [plaintiff’s] wrongful-discharge claim regarding the cause of his firing and the department’s justification for its action.” Remanded for trial.

EX PARTE YANHONG OCHS AND SHAWN JAMES MCCOMB, Appeal 2016-002088, Application 10/970,6241, 2017 WL 4457662 (Patent Tr. & App. Bd. September 28, 2017) involved the rejection of appellant’s patent comprising “[a] method for managing a crop insurance program or a grower compliance plan via a first data processing system comprising a data processor coupled to a data bus.” Issue was whether appellant’s filing was “directed to a patent-ineligible concept.” Examiner rejected the application, finding the claim “directed to the abstract idea of a fundamental economic practice (i.e. managing a crop insurance program).” Appellants argued their claim includes “significant unique structure elements and their synergistic interplay” which are “not mere computer instructions or generic computer functions.” Administrative patent judge affirmed Examiner’s ruling.

IN RE MONSANTO COMPANY, No. 11-17-00177-CV, 2017 WL 4415555 (Tex. App. September 21, 2017) involved Monsanto’s petition for writ of mandamus after their motion to quash a subpoena for the production of documents was denied. In an underlying action, plaintiff’s cotton crops were allegedly damaged by an herbicide (Sendero) and they sued Helena Chemical Company. and other defendants that were hired by Helena to perform the aerial spraying. In turn, Helena sought documents from Monsanto “essential to Helena’s investigation of an alternative source of the plaintiffs’ alleged crop damage.” Appellate court concluded that “Helena’s discovery requests to Monsanto constituted a fishing expedition,” and conditionally granted Monsanto’s petition.