Chicken pricing claimants can proceed as classes

  • Chicago federal judge approves three categories of buyers, including individual consumers
  • Defendants, including Perdue and others, challenged the group’s certification and denied liability

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Chicago on Friday approved the formation of three classes of chicken buyers and consumers who are suing major food industry companies for allegedly participating in a years-long conspiracy to reduce chicken consumption. supply of chicken meat and to raise prices.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin of the Northern District of Illinois said plaintiffs’ attorneys representing direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and consumers had sufficiently shown the elements necessary for class certification, including common facts and a large number of potential group members.

Defendants, including Perdue Farms Inc and Sanderson Farms Inc, have widely disputed whether the categories of plaintiffs can generally show how the industry’s alleged actions have harmed them. Some industry defendants have reached settlements with various classes.

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Durkin in December approved $181 million in settlements involving consumer end users. Last year, Tyson Foods Inc agreed to pay $99 million and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp said it would pay $75.5 million.

The companies and others have denied responsibility.

Restaurants, schools, airlines, and hospitals that serve chicken to individuals are part of the indirect class, and the end-user class includes what the judge described as “virtually all individual consumers of chicken in the United States.” United”. Thousands of chicken wholesale and distributor customers make up the category of direct buyers.

In his ruling, Durkin said “the fact that all of the defendants’ actions were precisely timed does not change the fact that supply declined in historically unusual ways from 2008 to 2019.”

A representative for Perdue declined to comment, and a representative for Sanderson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Doug Baldridge of Venable, a Perdue, Maryland-based attorney, and Dan Laytin of Kirkland & Ellis, of Sanderson’s Mississippi-based team, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Joe Bruckner of Lockridge Grindal Nauen, an attorney for the direct purchasers, said on Friday that “the court’s decision is thorough and well reasoned.”

Dan Gustafson of Gustafson Gluek represents commercial and institutional indirect buyers, and Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro is lead consumer counsel for end users.

Dozens of direct action plaintiffs have filed their own claims and are not participating in parallel class actions.

The case is In Re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation, US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 1:16-cv-08637.

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