Evidence in Peanut Antitrust Suit Will Include Plaintiffs’ Communication With Farmers

In an antitrust lawsuit filed against Golden Peanut Company and other Runner peanut producers accusing them of antitrust activity, a judge ruled on four motions in limine filed by the plaintiffs asking the court to exclude certain evidence before the trial in the matter.  The judge ruled that insurance crop claims and the plaintiff’s communications with other peanut farmers should be available in the evidence, but granted the other requests. 

The judge filed an Order on Wednesday denying one of the plaintiff’s motions in limine asking for the court to exclude any evidence relating to the plaintiffs’ contact with other peanut farmers during the trial. The plaintiffs argued that the information is irrelevant to the antitrust activities of the defendants and is prejudicial. Golden Peanut, however, argued that it was relevant to pricing discussions and that the defendants could use the information to show that pricing information was not confidential and that competitors discuss market information. 

The court ruled that it “cannot say that there are no grounds” where this communication would be relevant, and that the motions in limine should not be granted unless the evidence is “clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” 

On Tuesday, Judge Lawrence Leonard filed a separate order in which he granted one motion to exclude a text message from a plaintiff asking for money and another to exclude references to plaintiffs’ “socially disadvantaged, limited resource and beginning farmer or rancher certifications and changes in racial identification.” This second request reportedly related to two plaintiffs who changed their racial identification to Native American for financial benefits. 

This Order, however, denied the plaintiffs’ motion to not include in evidence insurance claims filed by the plaintiffs under the United States Department of Agriculture’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Relief Program. The Order said the court found that the evidence would not be “unfairly prejudicial or otherwise inadmissible,” but that it could give the defendants information about the credibility of the plaintiff. 

In December, the court granted the plaintiff’s request for class certification. The jury trial in the matter is currently set for June 15th, and there is a fairness hearing scheduled for March 25. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Durrette Arkema Gerson & Gill; Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P., Freed Kanner London & Millen LLC; and Spector Roseman & Kodroff, P.C. Of the defendants, Birdsong is represented by Kaufman & Canoles; Golden Peanut Company is represented by Kirkland & Ellis; and Olam is represented by Latham & Watkins