When a once-in-50-years storm caused a wastewater containment pond at 5 Star Feedlot to flood, the Colorado Attorney General smelled blood. Although authorities recovered only 379 dead fish from the nearby Republican River, the Attorney General’s office claimed the flood resulted in the deaths of nearly 14,000 fish and took the feedlot to court, where a Yuma County judge ordered the feedlot to pay more than $625,000 in penalties.
The charges levied against 5 Star were unsupported and wildly exaggerated. Consequently, on October 24, the Colorado Court of Appeals threw out the state’s case and ruled in 5 Star’s favor. In its ruling, a three-judge panel found that, to have violated the “unlawful takings” statute, 5 Star’s actions would have to have been taken both knowingly and voluntarily. Given that the flood was an act of God, the state did not even allege, and certainly could not prove, that 5 Star had engaged in any wrongdoing. Additionally, even the Attorney General acknowledged that the feedlot’s wastewater containment ponds, which flooded during the storm, were in full compliance with Colorado law.
Our firm represented 5 Star both at trial and on appeal, and we were confident of the feedlot’s case — and the Attorney General’s spurious reasoning — from the very beginning. This ruling marks the fourth time we’ve prevailed on behalf of businesses targeted by overreaching government lawsuits. It’s a record that’s earned us the nickname “Enemies of the State.”
The Court of Appeals’ commonsense ruling is good news, not only for our client, but for all those working in Colorado’s agriculture industry, and it provides reassurance that their businesses and livelihoods won’t be put at risk for events beyond their control.