Judge Certifies Classes in Broiler Chicken Antitrust Lawsuit
On Friday, May 27, 2022, an Illinois federal judge certified three classes of plaintiffs in an antitrust lawsuit alleging that more than a dozen major broiler chicken producers illegally colluded to limit chicken production and artificially increase prices. In certifying these classes, the Court rejected all of defendants’ requests to exclude plaintiffs’ expert opinions.
U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin certified classes of direct purchasers, indirect purchasers, and end-user consumers in his order, citing evidence and expert opinions supporting the certification requests.
“As can be seen… prior to 2008, Broiler production had increased at a relatively consistent rate for many years. Then… production decreased in 2009 and 2012, and between 2008 and 2019, the rate of production increase decreased significantly, before returning to the rate that had prevailed prior to 2008. This unusual decrease in production indicates the presence of a conspiracy among producers for several reasons.”
Judge Durkin went on to explain his reasoning, including consistent demand for broiler chickens and the fact that the defendant companies “own and operate virtually all of the components of production.” Judge Durkin also cited alleged evidence of collusion in the form of communication about public and private production plans, sharing of confidential production information, and evidence that the Georgia Dock Price Index was manipulated.
“Therefore, it’s not unreasonable for the buyers’ experts to use overall market trends as opposed to individual defendant conduct to analyze chicken supplies and how those supplies impacted prices,” Judge Durkin concluded.
Judge Durkin added that “the court cannot take seriously defendants’ argument that the decrease in supply is ‘imagined’ or contrary to ‘reality,’ because defendants go to great lengths to identify a cause for that very decrease in supply that does not legally implicate them.”
Wexler Boley & Elgersma LLP and co-counsel are representing commercial and institutional indirect purchaser plaintiffs in the case of In Re: Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation, case number 1:16-cv-08637, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. To read Judge Durkin’s certification order in full, click here.