Calif. Court Grants Motion to Reconsider in Seafood Products Antitrust Case

On Monday, the Southern District of California issued an order granting the plaintiff’s motion to reconsider in the case of In re Packaged Seafood Products Antitrust Litigation

According to the order, the case commenced in July 2015, when the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an investigation into the packaged tuna industry. Following the investigation the DOJ brought criminal charges for price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act against the three largest domestic producers of packaged tuna products; Chicken of the Sea International, Bumble Bee Foods LLC, and StarKist Company. The judge recounted that Bumble Bee’s CEO Christopher Lischewski was convicted after a jury trial and is serving a prison sentence for his “leadership role in the conspiracy” and all of the other defendants pled guilty. 

The court states that in the wake of the DOJ investigation, dozens of plaintiffs initiated civil actions alleging price fixing against the three tuna producers and their parent companies, which were eventually consolidated into a multidistrict litigation. After consolidation, Bumble Bee’s parent companies, Lion Capital, Lion Americas and Big Catch (the Parent Companies), moved to dismiss the claims. The court agreed, for failure to state claim over the entities and the complaint alleged sufficient facts against Lion Capital, but it failed to state a claim against Lion Americas and Big Catch. The court also granted a second motion to dismiss, after the plaintiffs had a chance to amend.

Under current review is the plaintiffs’ bid for reconsideration on the second dismissal. by the Parent Companies and the parties’ joint Motion to Seal eight documents filed in support of and in opposition to the plaintiffs’ Motion for Reconsideration. 

The plaintiffs argued that the court should reconsider the second dismissal based on  newly discovered evidence and because the court committed clear error when granting the motion. When reviewing the facts alleged by the plaintiffs, the court held that the plaintiffs adequately stated an antitrust claim against each of the Parent Companies and it therefore held that the prior court committed a clear error and granted the plaintiffs’ Motion for Reconsideration. 

Further, the court denied the Motion to Seal holding that the documents were no longer relevant because the Motion for Reconsideration was granted. The court noted that the documents requested to be sealed were documents included in the plaintiffs’ proposed amended complaint for the Parent Companies Second Motion to Dismiss and since the Motion for Reconsideration was granted and the the Second Motion to Dismiss is vacated the issue is moot. 

Ultimately, the District Court of California granted the Motion for Reconsideration, vacated the Parent Companies Second Motion to Dismiss, denied the Motion to File Documents Under Seal and ordered the Parent Companies to file their respective answers to the plaintiffs’ complaint. The Parent Companies are represented by Sullivan & Cromwell.