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Apache Produce Imports, LLC v. Malena Produce, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arizona, Second Division

August 12, 2019

Apache Produce Imports, LLC, an Arizona limited liability company, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
Malena Produce, Inc., an Arizona corporation; Delta Fresh, LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; and Delta Fresh Sales, LLC, an Arizona limited liability company, Defendants/Appellees.

          Appeal from the Superior Court in Santa Cruz County No. S1200CV201800219 The Honorable Denneen L. Peterson, Judge Pro Tempore

          Bowman and Brooke LLP, Phoenix By William F. Auther, Travis M. Wheeler, and David T. Lundmark Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant

          McNamara Goldsmith PC, Tucson By Eugene N. Goldsmith and Maria del Pilar Mendoza Counsel for Defendants/Appellees

          Presiding Judge Eppich authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Judge Vásquez and Judge Eckerstrom concurred.

          OPINION

          EPPICH, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         ¶1 Apache Produce Imports LLC ("Apache") appeals from the trial court's grant of stay to Malena Produce Inc., Delta Fresh LLC, and Delta Fresh Sales LLC (collectively "Malena"). Apache argues the court abused its discretion because issuance of the stay was effectively a denial, without proper consideration, of Apache's pending request for a preliminary injunction. Because we conclude the court effectively denied the preliminary injunction request without considering it under the proper legal standard, we vacate the stay and remand the case for consideration of the preliminary injunction request.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         ¶2 The present action stems from an ongoing dispute between Apache, a produce distributor, and International Greenhouse Produce S.A. de C.V. ("IGP"), a Mexican corporation that grows and markets produce. In 2008, IGP and Apache agreed that Apache would be IGP's produce distributor for ten years, but IGP disputes that, in 2016, it extended that agreement for five more years. That dispute is the subject of ongoing litigation in Mexico related to IGP's corporate governance, and also in Arizona, where IGP has sued for a declaration that the extension is invalid. See Int'l Greenhouse Produce, S.A. de C.V. v. Apache Produce Imports, LLC, No. 2 CA-CV 2018-0147, ¶¶ 1-3, 6-7 (Ariz. App. Apr. 5, 2019) (mem. decision) (vacating trial court's denial of Apache's request for preliminary injunction against IGP but finding no jurisdiction to review court's grant of IGP's request for stay).

         ¶3After Malena entered an agreement with IGP to distribute IGP's produce for the 2018-19 growing season, Apache sued Malena for interference with contract and unjust enrichment, seeking money damages and an injunction preventing Malena from receiving or distributing IGP's produce. Apache then applied for a temporary restraining order and a hearing on its preliminary injunction request. Four weeks later, Malena moved to stay the case. Without addressing Apache's pending request for injunctive relief, the trial court granted the stay, finding it would "save[] substantial resources" and "avoid[] multiple suits on the same subject matter, piecemeal litigation, difficult questions of foreign law that bear upon important policy issues, and conflicting judgments by different courts." Apache filed a special action, in which this court summarily declined to accept jurisdiction. See Apache Produce Imports, LLC v. Malena Produce, Inc., No. 2 CA-SA 2018-0072 (Ariz. App. Nov. 20, 2018) (order). Apache timely appealed.

         Discussion

         Jurisdiction

         ¶4 Apache contends that we have jurisdiction in this case under A.R.S. § 12-2101(A)(5)(b), which provides appellate jurisdiction from orders "refusing to grant . . . an injunction." Apache acknowledges that the trial court did not explicitly refuse to grant the injunction, but argues it effectively did so by granting Malena's stay request without considering the pending injunction request.

         ¶5 We agree the trial court effectively refused to grant the requested injunction. Before hearing the preliminary injunction request, the court held a hearing on Malena's later-filed stay motion. At the hearing, the court granted the stay from the bench without considering the pending preliminary injunction request and confirmed that the grant of stay was final pending results in the related litigation.

         ¶6 Malena contends the trial court did not refuse the injunction request because the court may still address it after the other litigation resolves. But "preliminary injunctive relief exists for a reason: to provide 'speedy relief from irreparable injury.'" Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co.,678 F.3d 1314, 1334 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (O'Malley, Circuit Judge, concurring in part, dissenting in part) (emphasis added) (quoting Ross-Whitney Corp. v. Smith Kline & French Labs.,207 F.2d 190, 198 (9th Cir. 1953)). By indefinitely postponing any possibility for relief, the stay order effectively denied Apache ...


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