Judge Rules on Kentucky Antitrust Claims Against Tyson, Saying the Case Will Continue to Trial

The judge in a Western District of Kentucky antitrust suit filed against Tyson Chicken Inc. ruled on Tuesday that the company would need to face a trial on the antitrust claims filed by parties who had contracted with the company who alleged they were paid anti-competitive prices. Tyson was denied its request for summary judgment, although it was granted in part. 

The complaint was filed against Tyson and individuals involved in the company in 2015, before most, if not all, of the chicken antitrust claims involved in the consolidated Illinois case. The plaintiffs reportedly had arrangements with Tyson to grow or raise chickens that it would process at the Robards Complex, which the defendant owns and operates. The lawsuit alleged the company violated the Packers and Stockyards Act, breached their contracts, breached good faith, and participated in fraud, although the fraud claim received summary judgment because the plaintiffs said they did not plan to pursue the claim at trial.

The court ruled that Tyson did not merit a summary judgment on the breach of contract claim, but did grant summary judgment for the claims that it violated “the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” The judge ruled that there was no evidence the defendant engaged in conduct that denied the benefit of the bargain which was originally intended. 

The court also ruled on Wednesday on another motion from Tyson to exclude the testimony of Kyle Stiegert. The plaintiffs reportedly retained Stiegert to determine if the actions of the defendant affected competition, and he said Tyson “exercised monopsony power … and that they suffered damages as a result.” The defendants, however, said Stiegert was unqualified to give opinions on poultry and that his calculations are not reliable. The court also denied this motion in part, but granted it in part, saying the defendants could attack the noted weaknesses in their cross-examination. 

The plaintiffs, who include individuals and corporations including Morvatt Enterprises, LLC, and TLC Poultry, LLC, are represented by Whitfield Bryson & Mason, Public Justice, and Butler Farm & Ranch Law Group. Tyson Chicken, Inc. and its employees James Gottsponer, David Dickey, David Mears, Neil Barfield, and Jared Shelton, are represented by Wells & Wetzel and Shook, Hardy & Bacon