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After Dismissal, Parties in Beef Antitrust Suit Discuss Discovery Suspension

A plate of assorted foods.

Food backgrounds: top view of a rustic wooden table filled with different types of food. At the center of the frame is a cutting board with beef steak and a salmon fillet and all around it is a large variety of food like fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, eggs, legumes, olive oil and nuts. DSRL studio photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mk II and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

After District of Minnesota Judge John R. Tunheim granted an order to dismiss a case against meat packing companies alleging antitrust activity on September 29, the defendants sent a letter to Judge Hildy Bowbeer discussing the motion and requesting leave for discovery to be suspended until after an amended complaint is filed. The plaintiffs, however, filed a letter asking for discovery to continue. 

The first letter was sent by the defendants, including JBS USA Food Company Holdings, Cargill Inc., National Beef Packing Company, and Tyson Foods Inc. Spencer Fane, council for JBS sent a letter on Wednesday, a day after the court dismissed the case and gave the plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint, asking for all discovery and deadlines in the case to be suspended. The letter said that although the judge granted leave for the plaintiffs to amend their complaint, “it is far from clear that any amended pleading would survive a motion to dismiss under the criteria articulated by Judge Tunheim in his opinion.” They also said two other complaints in the consolidated case have the same “pleading defects” cited by the judge. 

The letter stated, “because there is significant uncertainty that any amended pleading will survive a motion to dismiss under the standards set forth in Judge Tunheim’s Order, whether any production based on the forthcoming amended complaints should be required is a question that should be considered only after those amended complaints are filed.” The defendants asked the suspension to apply to a deadline for the parties to meet and confer, as well as a production of documents. In regards to the production, the defendants were previously told to “operate on the assumption that their motions to dismiss will be denied in their entirety,” which the letter said is no longer valid. 

The plaintiffs responded the next day saying that they did not oppose the request to delay the requirement to meet, but said that document production should continue. “Enforcing the Order requiring this modest production of highly relevant material is not only consistent with the approach taken in other cases … but furthers the ‘just, speedy, and inexpensive determination’ of these actions.” They reminded the court that the order dismissing the actions said the direct evidence was detailed and adequate, but that they needed to provide more information about the witnesses. Scott+Scott Attorneys At Law LLP, representing the plaintiffs, said requiring the documents to be produced now would be a “more efficient use of judicial and party resources.” 

The defendants quickly responded to the letter repeating their former request for a deadline suspension. They said the request for “pre-complaint discovery turns the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on its head.” They claimed the plaintiffs want the materials to make their complaint more viable. The meatpacking companies also responded that continuing discovery would only be more efficient under the assumption.

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