A federal judge believes a $1.9 million case brought by Belleza Fruit Inc. against Long Island Banana Corp. and its sister company Suffolk Banana could be reduced to as little as $319,000.
U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Feuerstein filed an opinion and order July 5 stating that Yorktown, N.Y.-based Belleza “has established a likelihood of success on merits of its PACA claims against Long Island Banana in an amount of at least $319,707…”
The opinion also states Belleza has not established a likelihood of success “at this preliminary stage” for its claims against Suffolk Banana under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.
Feuerstein wrote that Belleza waived its rights to some of the money allegedly owed by Suffolk Banana because it failed to demand full payment of invoices within 30 days.
The judge set a pretrial conference for Dec. 18. Between now and then, discovery and other action in the case will be handled by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Wall.
Long Island Banana president Tom Hoey Jr. has admitted in court documents that the company did not make full payment on some invoices from Belleza.
However, he contends Belleza does not have PACA protection for all of its invoices because it did not have a valid PACA license from May 3, 2011 through March 12, this year.
Belleza contends that Long Island Banana and Suffolk Banana, both of Lynbrook, N.Y., owe $242,000 and $1.76 million, respectively, for produce delivered between Sept. 27, 2010 and June 6 this year.
Feuerstein initially ordered Hoey and his companies to deposit into an escrow account the full $1.9 million claimed by Belleza. However, the judge amended that June 18 order several times, eventually reducing the escrow deposit to $450,000 in an order on June 22.