Defendants Answer Amended Complaint in Processing Plant Employees Antitrust Suit

On Wednesday and Thursday, the defendants in the poultry workers class-action filed answers to the second amended complaint. The class-action, proceeding in the District of Maryland, alleges conspiracy between many different poultry producers nationwide in keeping wages artificially low in their production and processing farms and factories. The second amended complaint, as noted in a court ruling, did address some of the concerns regarding incomplete or vague complaints, properly categorizing the defendants as defendants instead of just as co-conspirators.

Due to the large variations in counts alleged against specific defendants, each of the defendants specifically denied the counts related to themselves. The defendants each also renewed their previous objections that the amended complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The answers state a variety of defenses, including that the claims are barred by the statute of limitations as the alleged affirmative action of the conspiracy was 5 years ago and the statute of limitations was four years. Other arguments included a demand for mandatory arbitration pursuant to employment contracts and allegations of failure to exhaust administrative protocols prior to proceeding with a lawsuit; a failure of meeting of the minds sufficient to support joint and several liability with other defendants; and renewed claims of lack of standing and lack of capacity of the named defendants to represent the class

More defenses are likely to be raised as the case proceeds into the discovery phase and it appears that further motions to dismiss will also likely be raised.

The dozens of defendants, spanning much of the chicken production industry, are represented by a wide variety of counsel, including Shawe Rosenthal LLP, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, Offit Kurman, Whiteford Taylor Preston LLP, Weil, Gotshal & Magnes LLP, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, and others.