May 11, 2022


US judge says defense deal in chicken antitrust lawsuit is not illegal



A federal court in Chicago refused to overturn a price-fixing agreement among chicken producers on Wednesday, stating that the pact's clauses did not hinder antitrust plaintiffs' lawyers' ability to seek and recover damages at trial.


In a judgement, US District Judge Thomas Durkin ruled the deal signed in 2020 by around a dozen defendants, including Tyson Foods Inc and Pilgrim's Pride Corp, contained nothing improper. He claims that the coordination under a judgment-sharing agreement benefits defendants to negotiate settlements with plaintiffs.


Such agreements specify how defendants distribute a plaintiff's judgement among themselves, frequently based on market share. The broiler chicken settlement agreement outlined how a "settling plaintiff agrees to limit the financial amount recoverable from non-settling parties."


Direct action plaintiffs' lawyers, including a team from Boies Schiller Flexner, contended that the pooling agreement forces plaintiffs to agree to lessen some damages against non-settling defendants, which they believe is unjust. The signatories are also required to share copies of settlement agreements with any plaintiff that are otherwise secret with each other.


Tyson Foods and Pilgrim's Pride lawyers did not respond to requests seeking a comment. A Tyson Foods spokesman declined to comment, while a Pilgrim's representative did not immediately answer to a message seeking for a comment.


Last year, Tyson Foods agreed to pay US$99 million to settle end-user consumer class claims, while Pilgrim's Pride announced a US$75.5 million settlement. Direct-action litigants' trials are not scheduled to commence until at least next year.


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

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