– When Katy Esquivel was a little girl, her family had some idea that she might grow up to be an attorney. “If you ask my parents, they would say I was arguing at a very young age and it was certainly something that was destined to be,” she said. Esquivel is a Southwest Florida attorney who focuses on solving problems for her agricultural clients.
“For the past 12 years, my practice has focused on meeting the needs of the members of the produce industry”, Esquivel said. “My practice consists of PACA trust enforcement cases, as well as collection cases and handling disputes between members of the produce industry.” PACA refers to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, which facilitates fair trade practices.
“I also handle drafting agreements between industry members such as growers and their agents, and I handle transportation claims. I find solutions for members of the industry to the practical problems that they face,” Esquivel said.
After graduating from the University of Florida, Esquivel attended St. Thomas University College of Law and was able to clerk for and, after graduating, work for a commercial litigation firm in Naples before being offered an opportunity to work with Meuers Law Firm, which represents produce companies. “That’s where I had the opportunity to learn exactly how this industry works, and focus my energy on learning the ins and outs of this industry. There’s a finite body of law that governs transactions within the produce industry, and I’ve spent the last 12 years becoming someone who my clients can depend on to provide advice in that specific area of law.”
Esquivel is highly experienced in litigation, but does her best to not rush into it. “Most people like to resolve a dispute before it becomes a lawsuit. I try to find the solution so that my clients can avoid litigation. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and typically even if you win, the clients aren’t that happy because it’s taken a long time and it’s costly. I do my best to find solutions before my clients invest their time and money into a lawsuit.”
Generally with PACA trust enforcement cases, the common theme is non-payment, Esquivel said. A customer may not pay for a variety of reasons. It may be that there is a dispute regarding the quality of the produce, it may be a dispute over who bears the risk of loss during transit or it may involve insolvency. And in that instance, she said, her job is to find a solution that will help get the client paid as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
I really understand how the business works. I understand the practical realities of getting a load of tomatoes from the field all the way to the customer.” – Katy Esquivel
Esquivel has appeared in many different courts and venues in various parts of the country. “That’s because of how the produce industry works,” she said. “You ordinarily file a lawsuit where the defendant is located. So I’ve appeared in federal district and bankruptcy courts throughout the country. I’ve also represented clients before the USDA at reparations hearings” she said.
The difference between Esquivel’s firm and larger firms is that Esquivel has made it her business to understand the produce industry. “Big law firms may have a commercial litigation practice or they may have an agriculture practice that may deal with land use or a broader scope of practice areas, but I really understand how the business works. I understand the practical realities of getting a load of tomatoes from the field all the way to the customer,” she said. “Many law firms don’t really have a clear grasp of the nuts and bolts of how the industry works. For example, in a perfect world, everyone would document every conversation that they have with their customer or with another party and everything would be clean and neat. But that’s just not the way this industry works. You’ve got a perishable commodity, it’s got to get moved the moment it leaves the field. And so those formalities you’d hope to see in a typical commercial case, well, attorneys like myself who only work for this industry understand that that’s just not the reality,” she said.
“If there’s a dispute, you’ve got to find a solution and everybody understands that we may disagree about the quality of this product on arrival, but we all agree that it has to be liquidated. It’s not doing anybody any good by just sitting there. So the speed and understanding the remedy, is, I think, something different that I offer over the big firms.”
Esquivel sets aside time to participate in efforts to promote her profession’s integrity by serving as a member of the Thomas S. Biggs American Inn of Court, a national organization with the purpose of promoting civility and professionalism among attorneys and judges. Learn more here. “I’ve been very active in that. I was named the president of our chapter in the fall of 2013, right before the end of my maternity leave. Right now I’m involved in Leadership Collier, a program that is sponsored by the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, where 40 professionals within the community are selected to get a behind-the-scenes look at various aspects of our local economy. It’s been an incredible experience.”
Esquivel’s family also supports local charities, such as Girls on the Run, an after-school program that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running, as well as the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation, a foundation that supports research and education on carcinoid cancer, a rare cancer similar to the disease that struck Apple’s Steve Jobs.
Esquivel said that the highlight of her practice is the privilege of working with the quality people who make up the fresh produce industry. “The produce industry has a lot of salt-of-the-earth people. In any industry, you’re going to have people who aren’t that, but for the most part I deal with good, honest people and I enjoy that. And frankly, I don’t think most Americans don’t understand what it takes to get food on their table. It’s been a real privilege to see what it takes for that to happen. I was just in Publix and saw one of my client’s strawberries and was impressed by the good job someone did packing the berries in the field. I feel a better appreciation for what they do.”
Learn more about Katy Esquivel’s services to the fresh produce industry on her website and find her contact information below.
Katy Koestner Esquivel
Moorings Professional Building
2335 Tamiami Trail North
Naples, Florida 34103-4457