(CN) – A lawsuit may shed light on the scurrilous underbelly of organic dairy enterprises, with a federal judge advancing a case by a dairy farm claiming a cattle breeder in Tennessee poisoned its herd with disease.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Illman denied Harry Sheldon Livestock’s motion to dismiss, finding Miranda Dairy – which produces organic milk on farms in California and Texas – adequately alleged it was sold cows Sheldon knew had a disease which eventually infected Miranda’s entire herd.
“The court finds that plaintiffs’ claim for fraud is viable at this stage,” Illman wrote in the 21-page ruling.
Miranda’s case stems from the 2016 purchase of pregnant heifers from Sheldon Livestock. As the heifers gave birth and entered the milking herd, Miranda claims they were discovered to be carrying a disease that make them unfit to produce organic milk.
The disease eventually infected the entire herd, according to Miranda’s lawsuit filed this past October.
Sheldon said the suit should be dismissed because declarations filed by the plaintiffs were self-serving and were riddled with errors, including handwritten alterations.
Illman didn’t buy the argument.
“Defendants have not explained how or why these corrections render the declarations “highly suspect,” and because the corrections appear to be benign and clerical in nature, as well as being nongermane to the issues at hand, the court finds that there is no cause for suspicion,” he wrote.
Sheldon also tried to argue the statute of limitations had passed, that a federal court in California has no jurisdiction because Sheldon was under the impression he was selling cattle to Texas, and that the fraud claims were unfounded.
Ultimately Illman ruled against Sheldon on all fronts and advanced the case toward trial.
Sheldon’s attorney Wayne Maire of Redding, California, did not return an email seeking comment.