Judge John R. Tunheim of the Minnesota District Court filed an Order on Wednesday granting preliminary approval to a $24.5 million settlement between JBS and members of the direct purchaser class in a putative class-action lawsuit claiming that members of the pork industry artificially raised prices. This settlement relates to plaintiffs who purchased pork directly from the plaintiff, there are other classes involved in the case including those who purchased pork at inflated prices from other companies.
The agreement between JBS and the plaintiffs also requires the defendant to cooperate with the plaintiffs. The judge said that the settlement agreement “falls within the range of possible approval.” Although the agreement is still subject to consideration at a fairness hearing, Judge Tunheim said it was “fair, reasonable, adequate, and in the best interests of the Settlement Class.”
The Order appointed Lockridge Grindal Nauen and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw as co-lead counsel to represent the settlement class. It also set a schedule for providing notice to the settlement class of the agreement.
This settlement accounts for just a piece of the large consolidated pork antitrust lawsuit. On Thursday, a stipulation was filed to consolidate the discovery process for claims filed by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Winn-Dixie Stores, and Bi-Lo Holdings to help the cases move toward a conclusion. The stipulation said, “the parties shall coordinate discovery in a manner that reduces needless duplication and inefficiency … the Parties agree and understand that each of the consolidated cases may require discovery that is unique to the circumstances and causes of action at issue therein.”
This consolidated lawsuit regarding pork antitrust is one of many meatpacking antitrust claims being heard currently in various courts regarding chicken, turkey, beef, and other meats. On Monday, January 11, Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride announced they had reached a settlement with the direct purchaser plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing the companies of inflating the price of broiler chickens.