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Ill. Court Grants Class Certification in Chicken Antitrust Case

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On Friday, the Northern District of Illinois issued an opinion and order in In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation granting the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification and denying the defendants’ challenge to the plaintiffs’ expert testimony.  

This opinion is the latest action in a long-running lawsuit against the producers of broiler chicken, alleging that the producers conspired to raise the prices of broiler chicken in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The plaintiffs argue that more than a dozen broiler chicken producers and a benchmarking service called Agri Stats, Inc. shared confidential information and conspired to fix the price of broiler chicken. 

The opinion states that, from the onset of the litigation, the court appointed interim class counsel for three classes of purchasers, direct purchasers, commercial and institutional indirect purchasers and end-user consumers. Subsequently, each class moved for certification and offered expert testimony to support their motions. At issue in the court’s opinion is the certification of the three classes and the defendants’ motions to exclude the plaintiffs’ expert testimonies in support of their motions for certification.

The opinion states that the defendants generally do not challenge whether the plaintiffs have met the burden of establishing numerosity, adequacy, commonality and typicality for class certification “because those elements are easily met in this case.” Instead, the court states that the defendants primarily argued that class certification is improper because causation and injury cannot be demonstrated in a common fashion.

Additionally, the opinion purports that the plaintiffs’ experts concluded that a conspiracy existed and caused a common injury of price increases by identifying the conspiracy time period and applying a regression model to show that factors other than the conspiracy did not cause the price increase. Further, the court states that the defendants challenged the plaintiffs’ claim that causation and injury occurred in a common fashion by arguing that the plaintiff’s expert testimony is unreliable. 

However, the court held that the defendants do not actually question the reliability of the plaintiffs’ methods or data, but instead the defendants “merely disagree” with the plaintiffs’ perspective. Further, the court stated that such a dispute is factual and not a reason to deny class certification but instead should be resolved at summary judgment or trial. 

Accordingly, the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion to certify the three classes and denied the defendants’ motions to exclude the plaintiffs’ expert testimonies. The plaintiffs’ are represented by Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP, Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P, Hart Mclaughlin & Eldridge, LLC, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, Gustafson Gluek PLLC, and the defendants’ are represented by Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Venable LLP, Falkenberg Ives LLP, Rose Law Firm, Mayer Brown LLP, Miller, Canfield, Paddock, and Stone P.L.C. and others.

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