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Case v. United States Dep't of Agriculture

United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

September 4, 1986, Decided ; September 4, 1986, Filed

Civil Action No. 85-1021

Opinion

 [*341]  MEMORANDUM

 William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

I. Introduction and Background.

The defendants have filed motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs' complaint arises from a quarantine imposed on certain counties in Pennsylvania by the state and federal governments following an outbreak of avian influenza. Plaintiffs operate  [*342]  a hatchery in one of the counties. The complaint alleges violations of several constitutional rights guaranteed by the fifth and the fourteenth amendments. Specifically, plaintiffs claim a taking of their property without just compensation, a due process violation and an equal protection violation. The claim against the federal defendants is a Bivens-type claim 1 made directly under the fifth amendment. The claim against the state defendants, although not specifically set forth, would be under the fourteenth amendment by way of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 [**2]  The extent and duration of the quarantine as it applied to plaintiffs is not in dispute. 2 Their hatchery, "Case Farm Hatchery" is located in Brodbecks, York County, Pennsylvania. After the discovery of the influenza virus, the federal and state governments, through the United States Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, imposed a quarantine on certain areas of York County on November 16, 1983. Thereafter, other areas of the county were added as the virus was monitored. Plaintiffs came within the quarantine on December 27, 1983, when a highly pathogenic form of the virus was discovered on a farm about fifteen miles away. 3 Plaintiffs' flocks, however, were never shown to have been infected and were never destroyed or depopulated. Nevertheless, the quarantine regulations imposed the following restrictions on plaintiffs' business activities. Plaintiffs were permitted to move poultry eggs for use as food which came from poultry not exposed to highly pathogenic influenza interstate and intrastate from the quarantine area, provided certain security conditions were met. They could also ship day old poultry inside the quarantine zone and were also permitted [**3]  to buy hatching eggs outside the quarantine zone, hatch them on plaintiffs' premises, and sell the birds outside the zone but inside Pennsylvania. The quarantine on the plaintiffs was lifted on June 7, 1984. Other portions of York County were released from quarantine on July 27, 1984.

Significantly, the plaintiffs' business does not consist simply of selling table eggs and poultry for food. Rather, they almost exclusively hatch chickens, ducklings, guinea keets, turkey poults and game birds, and sell them as day olds. Ninety-five per cent of plaintiffs' business consists [**4]  of selling day old birds via the mail to small backyard flock owners in the continental United States and occasionally Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Five per cent of their business comes from the sale of table eggs, hatching eggs, books, poultry supplies and equipment. Plaintiffs purchase their breeding stock a year in advance so that they had incurred ninety per cent of their costs before the quarantine was imposed upon them. Their business is seasonal with the vast majority of it occurring between March and June each year.

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642 F. Supp. 341 *; 1986 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20828 **

ALLEN R. CASE, and EMMA CASE, Plaintiffs v. THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE and JOHN R. BLOCK, individually, and the DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA and PENROSE HALLOWELL, individually, JAMES O. LEE, JR., individually, DR. MAX A. VanBUSKIRK JR., individually, DR. G.J. FICHTNER, individually, Defendants

CORE TERMS

quarantine, plaintiffs', eggs, infected, regulations, poultry, flocks, zone, hatching, virus, influenza, farm, hatchery, chicks, lethal, government action, percent, avian, fifth amendment, defendants', outbreak, spread, Van, public interest, breeders, breeding, disease, ship, reasonable expectation, summary judgment