Case of the Day: Midbrook Flowerbulbs Holland v. Holland America Bulb Farms

The case of the day is Midbrook Flowerbulbs Holland BV v. Holland America Bulb Farms, Inc. (W.D. Wash. 2014). Midbrook was a Dutch company that sold flower bulbs to Holland America. When a dispute arose, the parties stopped doing business in May 2000, and Midbrook later claimed that Holland Farms had failed to pay it for the 1999 harvest. Midbrook sued in the Netherlands. Holland America appeared and defended, and it asserted a counterclaim alleging that Midbrook had overcharged it. After a hearing, the Dutch court ordered Holland Farms to pay Midbrook more than $1 million, plus fees and costs. Holland Farms appealed, and the Amsterdam Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment for the most part, though it reduced the damages to approximately $960,000. The Dutch Supreme Court affirmed, and Midbrook sought recognition and enforcement of the judgment of the Amsterdam Court of Appeals in Washington State.

After suing in Washington, Holland America brought another action in the Dutch trial court, this time seeking discovery from Midbrook of the invoices that underlay its claim for nonpayment. Holland America said that the court had ordered this discovery in the first action, but that Midbrook had failed to provide it. The court denied the request, noting among other things that the request was moot in light of the intervening decision of the Amsterdam Court of Appeals.

In the American proceeding, Midbrook sought summary judgment. Holland America sought, under FRCP 56(d), a delay in order to seek discovery. Holland America argued that obtaining the documents in question from Midbrook would show that it should have won the Dutch proceeding. That, of course, is beside the point, as the judge correctly held. The discovery was not aimed at any of the grounds for non-recognition of the judgment under the UFCMJRA.

On the merits, Holland America claimed that the Dutch proceedings had not comported with due process. You can guess how this turns out. The two arguments were, first, that the Dutch court had not provided all the discovery requested and, second, that the Amsterdam Court of Appeals had improperly reversed a credibility determination made by the lower court. Neither argument could succeed. The discovery question was fully litigated in the Dutch proceedings. The appellate court did not simply disregard the lower court’s credibility findings, but gave reasons for doing so. In short, no denial of due process. Thus the judge granted the motion for summary judgment.

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