Introduced by Representatives Towne of Berlin, Bourdeau of Hyde Park, Gray of Barre Town, Howrigan of Fairfield, McGrath of Ferrisburgh, Metzger of Milton and Willett of St. Albans City
Referred to Committee on
Subject: Agriculture; agricultural product disparagement
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes a legal remedy for the disparagement of a perishable agricultural product.
AN ACT RELATING TO THE DISPARAGEMENT OF AN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 6 V.S.A. § 182 is added to read:
§ 182. DISPARAGEMENT OF AN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT
(a) As used in this section:
(1) "Disparage" or "disparagement" means the making of any oral or written communication of false information claiming that a perishable agricultural product is adulterated or unsafe for human consumption, made intentionally or with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of such information. Each such communication shall be deemed a separate act of disparagement.
(2) "False information" means information that is not based on verifiable fact or on reliable scientific data or evidence.
(3) "Perishable agricultural product" means any food or commodity of agriculture that is grown, raised, produced, distributed, or sold within this state in a form that will perish or decay beyond marketability within a reasonable period of time.
(4) "Person" means any individual, corporation, partnership, trade group or other association.
(5) "Producer of perishable agricultural products" means any person who grows, raises, produces, markets or sells a perishable agricultural product, or any association representing such persons.
(b) A producer of perishable agricultural products may bring a civil action against any person who disparages such products, and any person on behalf of whom the disparagement was made.
(c) A plaintiff who prevails in an action under subsection (b) of this section may recover compensatory damages, reasonable attorney fees and costs. If the plaintiff demonstrates that the disparagement was made intentionally or with reckless and wanton disregard of the plaintiff's rights, the court may award punitive damages not to exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages. In addition, the court may grant preliminary and permanent injunctive relief.
(d) No action may be brought under this section more than two years after the disparagement occurs.
(e) The civil action and remedies provided in this section are in addition to any other actions or remedies provided by law.
Sec. 2. EFFECTIVE DATE
This act shall take effect on passage.