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Midwest Marketing Co., Inc. v. Quality Produce Suppliers, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 19, 2013

MIDWEST MARKETING COMPANY, INC., et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
QUALITY PRODUCE SUPPLIERS, INC., et al., Defendants

Page 844

For Leathers Melon Company, Inc., Plaintiff: Mary Elizabeth Gardner, LEAD ATTORNEY, Mary E. Gardner, P.C., West Dundee, IL; Mary Jean Fassett, LEAD ATTORNEY, McCarron & Diess, Washington, DC.

For Quality Produce Suppliers, Inc., Richard D Srum, Defendants: Jason Ryan Klinowski, LEAD ATTORNEY, Freeborn & Peters LLP, Chicago, IL.

For Patsy L. Srum, Defendant: Jason Ryan Klinowski, LEAD ATTORNEY, Elizabeth L. Janczak, Freeborn & Peters LLP, Chicago, IL.

For Great Lakes Produce & Marketing, LLC, H.C. Schmieding Produce Co., Inc., Bushmans' Inc,. Intervenor Plaintiffs: Mary Jean Fassett, LEAD ATTORNEY, McCarron & Diess, Washington, DC; William Briskin Kohn, Law Offices of William B. Kohn, Chicago, IL.

For TJ Produce, Inc., Phoenix Produce Company, Intervenor Plaintiffs: Erin Kathryn Russell, The Russell Firm, Chicago, IL.

For Leathers Melon Company, Inc., Intervenor Plaintiff: Mary Elizabeth Gardner, LEAD ATTORNEY, Mary E. Gardner, P.C., West Dundee, IL.

For Patsy L. Srum, Intervenor Defendant: Jason Ryan Klinowski, LEAD ATTORNEY, Freeborn & Peters LLP, Chicago, IL.

OPINION

Page 845

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

James B. Zagel, United States District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, Midwest Marketing Company, Inc. (" Midwest" ) and Ruby Robinson Co., Inc. (" Ruby" ), Intervening Plaintiffs Bushmans Inc. (" Bushmans" ), H.C. Schmieding Produce Co., Inc. (" Schmieding" ), and Great Lakes Produce & Marketing, LLC (" Great Lakes" ) (collectively, " Midwest Plaintiffs" ), and consolidated Plaintiff Leathers Melon Company, Inc. (" Leathers" ) (together, the Midwest Plaintiffs and Leathers are referred to as the " Plaintiffs" ), are suppliers of agricultural produce to Defendant Richard D. Srum (" Richard Srum" ), who owned and operated Quality Produce Suppliers, Inc. (" Quality" ). Plaintiffs Midwest and Ruby commenced this action on November 2, 2011 to enforce payment from the trust established by the provisions of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (" PACA" ), 7 U.S.C. § 499e(c).

The matter comes before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs move for summary judgment against Defendants Quality, Richard Srum, and Patsy Srum. Defendant Patsy Srum moves for summary judgment against Plaintiffs -- Midwest and Ruby, Intervening Plaintiffs -- Midwest Plaintiffs, and consolidated Plaintiff -- Leathers as to her personal liability. For the foregoing reasons, I grant Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment against Defendants Quality and Richard Srum. I deny Plaintiffs' and Defendant Patsy Srum's motions for summary judgment because there are material facts in dispute.

Page 846

II. STATEMENT OF RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Midwest, Ruby, Bushmans, Schmieding, Great Lakes, and Leathers are corporations that sell wholesale quantities of perishable agricultural commodities (" produce" ), and were licensed with the United States Department of Agriculture (" USDA" ) as dealers under the PACA at all relevant times. Quality is an Illinois corporation that purchased and sold wholesale quantities of produce. Richard Srum, as Quality's President, owner, director, and signatory on all bank accounts, was always in a position of control over the PACA trust assets. Richard Srum was actively involved in the operation and management of Quality.

Patsy Srum, mother of Richard Srum, worked as a part-time bookkeeper for Quality, earning approximately $2,000 per month. Patsy Srum worked anywhere from one to two hours per week in the winter months to eight to ten hours per week in the summer months. As bookkeeper, Patsy Srum mailed out Quality's invoices to its customers, prepared Quality's payroll, had access to Quality's financial information, issued and sent Quality's monthly tax payments to state and federal taxing authorities, and corresponded with Quality's accountant regarding the company's tax filings. Patsy Srum was not involved in decision-making regarding which vendors to pay or when to pay them.

At all times relevant to this case, Patsy Srum was listed as Quality's corporate secretary on Quality's PACA license application, was a signatory on one of Quality's bank accounts, and was in possession and control of Quality checks from her residence in Arkansas. During 2010 and 2011, Patsy Srum issued and signed over ninety (90) Quality checks totaling in excess of $86,000.00, ...


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