Chicken Companies Say Indirect Purchaser Antitrust Claims Are Barred

On Friday, defendants in the consolidated broiler chicken antitrust lawsuit filed an answer to the seventh amended class action complaint for the institutional indirect purchaser plaintiffs, which was submitted on October 23. The defendants denied many of the allegations against it and said that the claims from this group of plaintiffs should be barred. 

The response was filed on the already extended deadline for a response. The defendants, which includes Agri Stats, Tyson Foods, Case Farms, Foster Farms, Koch Foods, Mar-Jac Poultry, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, Wayne Farms, and others, denied that the plaintiffs stated a claim under the United States antitrust laws and said the indirect purchaser plaintiffs are not entitled to relief from the court because of the alleged antitrust activity from the defendants. 

The defendants responded to each of the 806 paragraphs in the amended complaint, and listed 33 defenses, resulting in a 375-page response. They asked for the court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, and award the defendants attorneys’ fees and other expenses. 

In addition to denying the claims that they harmed the plaintiffs by artificially raising the price of broiler chickens, the defendants added affirmative defenses alleging that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations, various doctrines, sales contracts between some plaintiffs and defendants, and because the plaintiffs reportedly did not “exercise reasonable care to mitigate any damages they may have suffered.” The defendants also argued that some of the state-law claims should be dismissed because of a lack of jurisdiction. 

There are two other groups of plaintiffs in the lawsuit which are not connected to this specific complaint, the direct purchaser plaintiffs and the end user and consumer plaintiffs. In an October Order, the judge ruled that each of the prospective classes should file a joint motion for certification. Chick-fil-A and Target filed complaints last week adding themselves to the direct purchaser plaintiffs group. 

Counsel for the commercial and institutional indirect purchaser plaintiffs’ liaison is Wexler Wallace LLP