Breaking News: Judge tells Earthbound Farm to stop selling Carmel Valley heirloom apples.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Earthbound Farm won’t be selling any of its rare, pink-fleshed apples any time soon—or giving them as gifts, or sprouting new trees from the old ones in Carmel Valley. This directive comes from Monterey County Superior Court Judge Robert O’Farrell in an injunction order he granted and signed on Dec. 3.
In his decision, O’Farrell handed plaintiff Priscilla Higuera a small but noteworthy victory over the organics giant by granting her request to halt defendant Earthbound Farm from doing anything with those apple trees borne out of a rare, unnamed heirloom tree on Higuera’s property. Higuera says Earthbound accesses and stripped the tree without permission.
“Pending trial, Defendants [Earthbound] are enjoined from propagating, or enabling others to propagate the apple trees that are the subject of this lawsuit,” O’Farrell wrote after hearing oral arguments from both sides on Nov. 30.
According to the complaint, Earthbound Farm’s horticulturist and director of research and development, Mark Marino, entered Higuera’s Carmel Valley property in 2001 without permission from the owner, and took clippings from her one-of-a-kind apple tree. Marino says he then took the truckload of clippings from the tree and turned them into an orchard of 150-200 trees that now grow on Earthbound’s Carmel Valley ranch. Earthbound has since sold the pink-fleshed gems for $2.59 a pound.
Earthbound doesn’t dispute the facts but instead insists that Higuera simply made her claim too late, and says the statute of limitations releases them from any liability. Higuera counters that Earthbound intentionally hid its acts of impropriety, and that the deceit nullifies the statute.
Unless a settlement is reached, the matter will go before a jury in March of 2008.