District of Minnesota Consolidates Additional Pork Antitrust Lawsuits Into MDL

On December 27, 2022, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued a conditional transfer order consolidating Maximum Quality Foods, Inc. v. Agri Stats, Inc. et al into In re Pork Antitrust Litigation

On Wednesday, the District of Minnesota issued an opinion and order consolidating the present actions at issue. The opinion and order was originally signed on November 12, 2021, by the judge overseeing In re Pork Antitrust Litigation, Judge John Tunheim, but was not issued until after the JPML ruling. 

As reported by Law Street Media, In re Pork Antitrust Litigation represents the consolidation of separately filed putative class actions alleging that the United States’ largest pork suppliers conspired to artificially constrict the supply of pork products and fix pork prices. The plaintiffs in the case allege that U.S. pork suppliers exchanged detailed, competitively sensitive and closely guarded, non-public information about price, capacity, sales volume and demand through their co-conspirator, Agri Stats, from at least 2009. Further, the plaintiffs argue this exchange of information allowed the defendants to control the supply and price of pork in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act causing the plaintiffs to pay artificially inflated prices for pork.

In Judge Tunheim’s order, he states that in 2021, additional cases brought by individual plaintiffs were filed in other federal district courts involving the same issues including, Maximum Quality Foods, Inc. v. Agri Stats, Inc. et al. The order states that, as these new cases were filed, the JPML continued to transfer the cases to the District of Minnesota under Judge Tunheim to prevent duplicative pretrial proceedings and potentially inconsistent pretrial rulings.

Following the transfers from the JPML, the court asked the parties to address whether the cases should be formally consolidated or just coordinated to the greatest extent possible. Tunheim’s order states the parties were generally in favor of consolidation besides the direct action plaintiffs whose cases were specifically transferred by the JPML.

After deliberation and considering the parties’ arguments, Tunheim wrote the order and opinion issued on January 4. The order states all related pork antitrust cases pending in the District of Minnesota will be consolidated into In re Pork Antitrust Litigation. The order states the consolidation will increase efficiency, while decreasing the burdens and costs to the parties, nonparties, witnesses and the court, and decreasing the risk of inconsistent rulings.