On February 13, 2019, Judge Thomas Durkin, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, granted early approval to Georgia-based Fieldale Farms Corp. (“Fieldale”) for a $1.4 million settlement of claims from buyers of broiler chickens that allege the poultry company artificially drove up the price of its chickens for decades.
In addition to the payment to the class of institutional indirect and commercial purchasers of its broiler chickens, Fieldale agreed to provide documents, phone records, and employees for trial testimony or deposition as the class continues its litigation against other broiler chicken manufacturers, including Koch Foods Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., and Tyson Inc.
Judge Durkin determined that the settlement was a reasonable recovery, as he had earlier approved a $2.25 million deal between Fieldale and a class of direct chicken purchasers. Judge Durkin noted that Fieldale’s agreement to cooperate in the suit is “certainly an enhancer to any settlement,” explaining that “[i]f they provide information to plaintiffs’ counsel that helps facilitate further settlements, then this is certainly at least conceivably a good settlement under the standards that I’m supposed to apply for preliminary approval.”
The Fieldale settlement is among the first in the giant antitrust action, which includes three groups of buyers, including indirect buyers and resellers of the chickens, such as restaurants, and end users who purchased the chickens for consumption, as well as direct chicken buyers. Approximately 50 direct chicken buyers have opted to pursue their own direct actions against the manufacturers, and Fieldale is continuing its attempt to settle the end users’ claims.
Judge Durkin gave conditional certification to the settling class, commenting that arguments over whether a class in the case as a whole should be certified are “a fight for another day.” He also authorized the indirect purchasers to postpone class notice and objection while they continue to work toward additional settlements in the case.
The initial broiler chicken antitrust action was filed over two years ago, alleging that more than a dozen well-known poultry producers restricted the supply of broiler chickens, shared price points, and manipulated the Georgia Dock price index in order to inflate the price of broiler chickens.
The legal team at Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP (“SFMS”) has significant experience litigating class action and consumer protection matters. Please contact Nick Lussier or Chiharu Sekino if you have a similar matter to discuss. We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.
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