Order Centralizes Nine Antitrust Lawsuits Against Deere Repair Services

Chair Karen K. Caldwell of the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation filed a transfer order on June 1 for In Re: Deere & Company Repair Services for six ongoing antitrust cases against the company, seeking to centralize this litigation in the Northern District of Illinois.

Throughout the past few months, Deere has faced numerous antitrust lawsuits by farms and other companies that have been hurt by their slow and expensive repair processes, including complaints from Forest River Farms, Plum Ridge Farms and Eagle Lake Farms Partnership.

In these complaints, the plaintiffs described how Deere implements “engine control units (ECUs)” that are “centralized computers that force farmers to have their products serviced at Deere licensed mechanics and dealerships.” Accordingly, this was a sharp departure after decades of farmers doing their own tractor repairs, especially since they were not allowed access to the software and repair tools “that the Dealerships have.” Due to the restrictive nature of tractor repairs caused by the ECUs, the Deere Repair Market became “three to six times more profitable than its sale of the original market” and that Deere has a monopoly on the Deere Repair Market as a result.

The panel found that all nine plaintiffs represent similar putative classes and made “substantially identical” claims under the Sherman Act, along with claims of unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel and other identical relief. Centralizing these cases will supposedly eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings and conserve the resources of the parties involved.

Judge Iain D. Johnston, who is already presiding over five of the involved actions, will preside over this multidistrict litigation case.

According to a June 10 filing, the conditional transfer order will not take effect until it is filed in the Office of the Clerk of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.