Judge Catherine C. Eagles denied a request by Dairy Farmers of America Inc. (DFA) to dismiss an antitrust complaint filed against the company by the grocery chain Food Lion, LLC. The Order, filed on Friday in the Middle District of North Carolina, denied the motion without prejudice and stated that the complaint does merit further evaluation.
“The complaint plausibly alleges facts giving rise to subject matter jurisdiction and to plausible claims for relief, and the issues raised by the defendant are more suited for evaluation on a better developed factual record,” the document stated.
The plaintiffs claimed injury because DFA’s acquisition of multiple milk processing plants from Dean Foods in the area would leave DFA as Food Lion’s only local option for purchasing milk in the North Carolina area.
Dairy Farmers of America asked for the case to be dismissed in June claiming that Food Lion had not been injured directly, but filed the lawsuit because of the potential for injury in the future. The motion also cited the Department of Justice, which approved DFA’s acquisition of other processing plants from Dean Foods, DFA’s competitor which recently filed for bankruptcy.
Food Lion contested the motion to dismiss saying that the issue should be discussed in court and that the motion inaccurately represented relevant legal standards. The grocery company claimed that a trial would be the best way to resolve the issues they presented in the complaint.
Both parties will submit any initial requested data by August 15, and DFA’s response to the Motion for Preliminary injunction is due at the end of September.
Food Lion is represented by Hunton Andrews Kurth. Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, which is also a plaintiff in the case, is represented by Troutman Sanders. DFA is represented by Womble Bond Dickinson.