After nine years of litigation in United States District Court, Judge Frederick J. Scullin has ruled in favor of Willet Dairy, Genoa, and declared the suit brought against it by a few of its neighbors as "frivolous” and ordered a portion of attorney fees returned to the farm.
Judge Scullin wrote that the "plaintiffs should have known that they had no evidentiary support to establish an ongoing violation of existing permits and the plaintiff's proceeded to court without evidence to establish essential elements of their claims.”
Return of attorney fees is a significant statement in support of the farm. "A prevailing defendant can recover fees only when the court finds that litigation was ‘frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless,' or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so,” wrote Judge Scullin.
Willet Dairy has always maintained it compliance with Federal and State laws, even in the face of complaints that the farm failed to manage its animal wastes properly. Willet Dairy has repeatedly been reviewed by Federal and State authorities. Regulators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, state and local health departments, have all concluded that the dairy is in compliance with state and federal laws. During the course of the lawsuit four separate federal court decisions have all ruled in favor of Willet Dairy.
"All federal causes of action were dismissed in their entirety and upheld in appeal,” said the farm's lawyer David Cook, partner at Nixon Peabody, in Rochester. "The only claims left are state law of common law nuisance and negligence. The landowners have filed claims in state court and intend to pursue those claims despite the federal court's decisions.”