Hausfeld wins significant victory on behalf of a class of broiler chicken farmers in antitrust lawsuit against major poultry producers

Washington, D.C. (May 13, 2024) A federal judge has granted Hausfeld’s motion to certify a class of over 24,000 broiler chicken farmers accusing Pilgrim’s Pride of colluding to suppress Grower pay to artificially low levels through agreements not to recruit, solicit, or “poach” one another’s Growers and through comprehensive and systematic exchanges of Grower compensation information. Hausfeld attorneys Gary I. Smith, Jr. and Melinda R. Coolidge presented argument on behalf of the Plaintiffs during a two-day hearing in July 2023, along with co-counsel Daniel J. Walker from Berger Montague.

In a case of nationwide significance, presiding Judge Robert J. Shelby, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, announced on Thursday that “as plaintiffs allege, the effects of the overarching agreement, including the [no-poach agreement] and the [information-sharing agreement], were nationwide and transmitted through.

h the compensation of all growers. According to plaintiffs, the impact of the alleged antitrust violation — artificially suppressed pay — was felt by all growers, regardless of whether an individual grower tried to switch integrators, did not want to switch, or could not switch." Judge Shelby also denied Pilgrim’s Pride’s Daubert motion seeking to exclude Plaintiffs’ expert analysis on liability, impact, and damages.

Judge Shelby determined that all members of the class share common claims which would indicate potential antitrust conspiracy involving Pilgrim’s Pride and its co-conspirators. Pilgrim’s Pride’s argument disputed the existence of the conspiracy was dismissed by Judge Shelby. Additionally, the defendant claimed that the majority of growers did not attempt to switch integrators or reside in areas of only a singular integrator; this argument was also rejected. The judge notes, “in reply, plaintiffs contend [Pilgrim's Pride's] argument misstates their factual allegations and is 'legally irrelevant' for purposes of establishing typicality."

"After seven years of litigation, today's ruling is an important victory — both for the thousands of American farmers in the certified class and for private enforcement of our nation's antitrust laws more generally," plaintiffs' counsel Gary I. Smith Jr. of Hausfeld LLP told Law360 and Reuters in a statement Thursday. "We look forward to presenting our clients' claims to an Oklahoma jury."

Hausfeld originally developed the case through independent research into anomalous economic activity in the broiler market. The firm defeated multiple motions to dismiss, and as of January 2023, reached settlements totaling $69 million with four of the five Defendants – Tyson ($21 million), Perdue ($14.75 million), Koch ($15.5 million), and Sanderson (17.75 million).

The victory paves the way for Plaintiffs to bring their class damages claim – ranging between $761 and $924 million before trebling – before an Oklahoma jury.

The case is In re Broiler Chicken Grower Antitrust Litigation No. II, MDL No. 20-2977, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

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About Hausfeld

Hausfeld is a leading global law firm with offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, London, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Stockholm, and Washington, DC. The firm has a broad range of complex litigation expertise, particularly in antitrust/competition, financial services, sports and entertainment, environmental, mass torts, consumer protection, and human rights matters, often with an international dimension. Hausfeld aims to achieve the best possible results for clients through its practical and commercial approach, avoiding litigation where feasible, yet litigating robustly when necessary. Hausfeld’s extensive experience with alternative and innovative fee models offers clients a diverse menu of engagement options and maximum flexibility in terms of managing their cost exposure.

Hausfeld is the only claimants’ firm to be ranked by The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners as a top tier firm in private enforcement of antitrust/competition law in both the United States and Europe. Additionally, the firm has National Tier 1 Rankings in “Best Law Firms” in Antitrust and Litigation-Antitrust. For more information about the firm, including recent trial victories and landmark settlements, please visit www.hausfeld.com.

Media Contact:

Lisa Sharrow: (202) 953-8177 or lsharrow@hausfeld.com