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Seawater Seafoods Co. v. Dulcich

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 23, 2018

SEAWATER SEAFOODS COMPANY, an Oregon corporation, BRET HAMRICK, an individual, and FRONT ST. MARINE LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, Plaintiffs,
v.
FRANK DULCICH, an individual, PACIFIC SEAFOOD GROUP dba PACIFIC SHRIMP COMPANY, DULCICH REALTY ACQUISITION, LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, PACIFIC HOOKER, LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, and PACIFIC FISHING LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael J. McShane United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Seawater Seafoods Company, Bret Hamrick, and Front St. Marine LLC bring this antitrust and tort action against Pacific Seafood Group, Frank Dulcich, Dulcich Realty Acquisition, Pacific Hooker, LCC, and Pacific Fishing LLC. On November 20, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' antitrust claims. In response, and to avoid summary judgment, Plaintiffs moved for leave to file an amended complaint, removing their state law claims and substituting a new theory of antitrust liability. Both motions are now before the Court. Because the relief sought by Plaintiffs in their operative Complaint is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, and granting them leave to remedy this deficiency would prejudice Defendants and cause undue delay, Plaintiffs' action is DISMISSED with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         The present dispute arises from the alleged conduct of Pacific Seafood Group, Frank Dulcich, Dulcich Realty Acquisition, Pacific Hooker, LCC, and Pacific Fishing LLC (collectively, “Pacific Seafood” or “Defendants”) on their Yaquina Bay property and its interference with the ability of Seawater Seafoods Company, Bret Hamrick, and Front St. Marine LLC (collectively, “Seawater” or “Plaintiffs”) to successfully operate a seafood processing business on neighboring land. As the parties are familiar with the facts, and only a limited subset is relevant to the pending motions, the Court omits significant background information.

         Seawater Seafoods Company is a live crab processor owned by Bret Hamrick. Compl. ¶ 4.[1] In 2014, Seawater Seafoods Company leased waterfront property from Front St. Marine LLC in Newport, Oregon. Snider Decl. Ex. C at 11 (Webster Depo. 141:9-22). That property, comprised of two noncontiguous parcels, houses dock space running along Yaquina Bay. Snider Decl. Ex. A at 2 (Wright Decl. ¶ 3). Seawater Seafoods Company leased the property in hopes of transferring its unloading operations from the Newport public docks to the private dock space bordering the two strips of land. Compl. ¶¶ 28, 45.

         Pacific Seafood Group is a combination of entities, including Pacific Shrimp Company, owned by Frank Dulcich. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9. These entities process coldwater shrimp, trawl-caught groundfish, Pacific whiting, and Dungeness crab, among other seafoods. Snider Decl. Ex. A at 1 (Wright Decl. ¶ 2). Pacific Seafood Group, through Pacific Shrimp Company, leases property from Dulcich Realty Acquisition along Yaquina Bay.[2] Compl. ¶ 9. As relevant here, Defendants' parcels border those owned and occupied by Plaintiffs. Snider Decl. Ex. A at 1 (Wright Decl. ¶ 2). The ownership and dimensions of the parcels is as follows:

Yaquina Bay

Tax Lot 2000

Tax Lot 1900

Tax Lot 1800

Tax Lots 1700, 1400, and 1401

25 ft.

25 ft.

30 ft.

300 ft.

Plaintiffs

Defendants

Plaintiffs

Defendants

Snider Decl. Ex. A at 1 (Wright Decl. ¶ 7).

         Plaintiffs' parcels are, individually, too small to accommodate the mooring of most commercial fishing vessels. Snider Decl. Ex. A at 5 (Wright Decl. ¶ 10). As a result, to make deliveries, many boats visiting Plaintiffs' docks must overhang into the waterway just in front of Defendants' property, thereby obstructing a portion of Defendants' dock space. Snider Decl. Ex. E at 14 (Hamrick Depo. 173:7-11). Shortly after Plaintiffs began accepting deliveries at their new docks, Defendants objected to this practice. Snider Decl. Ex. A at 7 (Wright Decl. ¶ 14). Plaintiffs allege that, to retaliate for these intrusions and, more generally, the additional competition from Plaintiffs, Pacific Seafood engaged in a course of anticompetitive and tortious conduct throughout the 2014-15 and 2015-16 Dungeness crab seasons. Compl. ¶ 32.

         The alleged conduct includes “placing a large dumpster . . . full of dead crab” next to Tax Lot 1800, regularly leaving doors open to allow entry of vermin into the parties' shared processing space, allowing ammonia gas to leak out of Defendants' refrigeration system and onto Plaintiffs' property, and installing a water-facing surveillance camera intended to intimidate fisherman. Compl. ¶¶ 33-39. Plaintiffs further allege that, without any legitimate business purpose, Defendants frequently boxed in Plaintiffs' Tax Lot 1800-making it difficult to overhang boats into the waterway in front of Defendants' docks-by mooring vessels near the edge of Tax Lots 1900 and 1700. Compl. ¶¶ 33-34. Finally, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants placed an unloading hoist on Tax Lot 1700, near the shared property line with Tax Lot 1800, for the sole purpose of congesting the waterway in front of Defendants' property and making it difficult for Plaintiffs to receive deliveries. Compl. ¶¶ 46-49.

         On October 27, 2015, Plaintiffs filed suit in Lincoln County Circuit Court. Daniels Decl. Ex. 1. At issue in that action was whether, under Oregon's public trust doctrine, Seawater had a right to protrude into Pacific Seafood's waterway. Daniels Decl. Ex. 1 at 9-17 (State Complaint ¶¶ 25-29). When the state court declined Plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and a brief armistice between the parties fell apart, Seawater voluntarily dismissed its state action. Daniels Decl. Ex. 7. Defendants, however, proceeded to file their own state action, seeking the inverse declaration, namely that Pacific Seafood's property rights were superior and that Seawater had no right to overhang vessels or otherwise interfere with the dock operations of Pacific Seafood. Daniels Decl. Ex. 11 at 5-7 (Defendants' State Complaint ¶¶ 16-19).

         On May 30, 2017, after more than a year of litigation, the state court entered summary judgment in favor of Pacific Seafoods. Snider Decl. Ex. H at 2-5 (Tr. 83:9-84:4, 85:17-86:1). As part of that disposition, the state court awarded Pacific Seafood declaratory and injunctive relief in a separately issued judgment (“State Court Judgment”), which includes the following provisions:

(a) [Pacific Seafood], as riparian owners or lessees, have a right of access to the water in front of the Pacific Seafood Tax Lots (tax lots 1400, 1401, 1700, and 1900);
(b) [Pacific Seafood's] right of access to the water in front of the Pacific Seafood Tax Lots is superior to the rights of Seawater or Front St. Marine, who engage in a neighboring private enterprise;
(c) [Pacific Seafood's] rights are violated by any obstruction in front of the Pacific Seafood Tax Lots placed by Seawater or Front St. Marine (including any vessels moored to the Seawater Tax Lots (tax lots 1800 and 2000) at Seawater or Front St. Marine's direction behest, or consent), including vessels which are moored at the Seawater Tax Lots but which overhang in front of the Pacific Seafood Tax Lots;
(d) Front St. Marine and Seawater have no right to interfere with Plaintiffs' mooring of vessels in front of the ...

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