Judge Declines to Dismiss Turkey Antitrust Claims in Illinois Suit

Northern District of Illinois Judge Virginia M. Kendall denied a motion to dismiss antitrust claims against companies in the turkey industry on Monday, but dismissed unjust enrichment claims and claims against Kraft, which argued it does not produce or process turkey but purchases it.  The putative class-action lawsuit was filed by Sandee’s Catering in April.  The suit targets Tyson Foods, Hormel, Cargill, and others.

The complaint alleged that the defendants, including turkey companies and Agri Stats which provides information to other players in the industry, participated in anticompetitive activity and violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The defendants reportedly used the information exchanged through Agri Stats to cause the plaintiff and others in a similar situation to pay more than what should have been the market price for turkey. The plaintiff, which is a bakery in Jamestown, N.Y., is seeking to certify a class including other commercial and institutional indirect purchasers of turkey. 

The judge did dismiss two claims with prejudice, the Utah antitrust claim, because Utah’s Antitrust Act requires the person bringing the claim to be a Utah resident, and the Arkansas consumer protection claims, based on an Eighth Circuit ruling. The plaintiff also voluntarily withdrew Missouri and Rhode Island consumer protection claims.  The judge reported that the defendants, outside of Agri Stats, include the “leading suppliers of turkey in an industry with approximately $5 billion in annual commerce.” The defendants were attempting to dismiss the lawsuit for failure to state a claim, but the judge reported that Sandee’s “pled sufficient allegations” for their federal antitrust claims. 

In a similar order filed on October 19 regarding another lawsuit against turkey companies and Agri Stats, Judge Kendall also dismissed claims against Kraft but did not dismiss the majority of alleged antitrust activity claims against the other defendants. That lawsuit was filed by turkey purchasers including Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative, Inc., and John Gross And Company, Inc on behalf of a class. 

The plaintiff is represented by Cuneo Gilbert & Laduca and Clifford Law Offices