9th Circuit Approves En Banc Hearing in Tuna Antitrust Lawsuit

On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals vacated a previous opinion in a class action tuna antitrust lawsuit. The case, specifically class certification, will now be considered in an En Banc hearing. 

The putative classes are direct purchaser plaintiffs who purchased tuna directly from defendants and commercial food service product plaintiffs who purchased over 40 ounces of tuna products from Dot Foods, Sysco, US Foods, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, and Costco. Defendants in this case include Bumble Bee Foods LLC, Tri-Union Seafoods LLC, Starkist Co., Dongwon Industries Co. LTD, and Thai Union Group PLC.

This ruling comes in response to an April 28th filing by a judge who called for a vote to consider whether this case should be reheard en banc. Also, in that decision, the court determined that the Southern District of California should need to find “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the classes met the requirements for certification. The original opinion stated that the plaintiffs’ evidence did not establish predominance because it could have been used to establish liability in individual lawsuits.

The original allegations from the case stated that three domestic tuna companies which produce 80 percent of packaged tuna sales, agreed among each other to fix prices, limit promotions, and exchange confidential business information. It is worth noting that the Department of Justice has filed criminal charges with similar allegations which Bumble Bee and StarKist have since pled guilty to. 

Tri-Union Seafoods is also supposedly cooperating with a separate federal investigation.
Lead plaintiff Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative Inc. is represented by Hausfeld and Bleichmar Fonti & Auld. Bumble Bee Foods is represented by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Tri-Union Seafoods is represented by Allen & Overy, and Starkist is represented by Latham & Watkins.