Judge Rules Bid-Rigging Claims Will Not Be Dismissed in Chicken Antitrust Suit

Judge Thomas M. Durkin denied the defendants’ motion to strike a claim from some complaints in the Northern District of Illinois consolidated antitrust complaint regarding broiler chickens in a Memorandum, Opinion, and Order filed on Tuesday. The judge ruled that the claim of bid-rigging was related to the other claims involved in the lawsuits and that there has already been some evidence of it in government investigations.

The order said the defendant’s request applied to four complaints recently added to the consolidated case and one amended complaint. Each of these filings claimed the defendants, companies which produce broiler chickens bred for meat, engaged in raising the price of the chicken by coordinating to rig the bidding process.

The defendants moved to strike the bid-rigging claims, saying “they are not part of this case” because the claims were not present in the original cases when the consolidated case was formed. Plaintiffs, however, claimed that “bid-rigging has been at the heart of the case since its inception,” and voiced their intention to add the claim to all of the complaints.

Judge Durkin said not every plaintiff would need to file an amended complaint which includes the claim, but that the direct-action plaintiffs should specify which plaintiffs are making which claims, specifically the bid-rigging claim, in the consolidated complaint which should be filed before October 23.

The filing stated “it is unclear to the Court whether the putative classes intend to amend their complaints to include bid-rigging claims. And it is not apparent to the Court that the bid-rigging claim is necessarily amenable to class treatment. But if class plaintiffs intend to amend their complaints to include bid-rigging claims, those amended complaints should also be filed by October 23, 2020.”

The document specified that the bid-rigging claim will continue on a separate track from the other two claims which are already being heard, in an effort to streamline the case. This addressed an argument that the case is stretching too long and attorneys fees are growing. The judge said “this should not be a war of attrition,” and that the case needed to progress towards an end.

The filing said, the “plaintiffs have consistently pushed for expedient resolution of this case . That is also the Court’s goal. The proper administration of the case cannot wait for the new claim to catch up to the claims that have already been litigated for four years.”