Direct Action Plaintiffs Oppose Judgment-Sharing Agreement in Chicken Antitrust Case

In a motion filed last week, a subset of direct action plaintiffs in the antitrust case concerning broiler chicken price-fixing objected to a Judgement Sharing Agreement (JSA) entered into by some of the defendant meatpacking companies.

The motion was filed by a wide variety of plaintiffs, with big names including Target, Sysco, and U.S. Foods. According to the motion, defendants who are party to the JSA include Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, Koch Foods, Wayne Farms, Perdue Foods, related entities, and others comprising the largest chicken producers party to the lawsuit.

A JSA, according to the motion, is “‘a contract among antitrust defendants (and potential antitrust defendants) whereby the signatories agree in advance to their relative responsibility for any antitrust damages awarded at trial against any of them.’”

The movants objected to two provisions of the JSA that they say “disables” core functions of antitrust law.

First, the JSA purportedly allows settling parties to evade the principle of joint and several liability, through a requirement that settlement agreements include a provision which reduces the amount of money available to further settlement agreements by an amount proportionate to the JSA’s “sharing percentage.” The movants likened this to a group boycott, itself an unlawful coordination between companies.

The movants also objected to a provision requiring the sharing of any settlement agreement with other JSA members; they say this practice discourages settlements.

The moving parties are requesting that only those two provisions be found unenforcable, leaving the remainder of the JSA intact.