Peanut Shellers Must Produce Data in Antitrust Case, Judge Holds

On Friday, the magistrate judge overseeing the Peanut Farmers Antitrust Litigation taking place in the Eastern District of Virginia granted the plaintiffs’ motion to compel defendant Birdsong Corporation to produce certain structured data.  Birdsong filed an opposition to the motion to compel in June.

Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard ordered Birdsong to produce the data the plaintiffs are seeking.  Specifically, the plaintiffs are looking for certain “structured data for (1) the three types of non-Runner peanuts, and (2) data that covers the time period between January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2012.”  The plaintiffs argued this data is “necessary to establish a benchmark period for a “before-and-during-regression analysis” to potentially determine their damages.” 

Birdsong argued that non-Runner peanuts were not part of the price-fixing allegations within the complaint, so accordingly these are not relevant to the plaintiffs.  Additionally, Birdsong asserted that the time period of the data pre-dates the beginning of the plaintiffs’ alleged conspiracy is not relevant.  Overall, the request for non-Runner peanuts and the 2010-2012 data is irrelevant and beyond the scope of discovery so the plaintiffs’ motion should be denied. 

The plaintiffs originally brought this class action against Birdsong, Golden Peanut Company LLC and Olam Peanut Shelling Company, Inc., alleging anticompetitive behavior.  These defendants constitute a large majority of the market.  The court ruled against dismissal in May and the defendants filed answers in late June.

The plaintiffs argued the non-Runner peanut structured data is relevant because it will serve as a benchmark for prices for Birdsong’s purchases of runner peanuts.  The court stated, under the circumstances, it believes the plaintiffs have sufficiently shown that this data is relevant to potential damages calculations.  In addition, the court granted the motion to compel to the structure data covering the period from January 1, 2010, through December 31, 2012.

The jury trial has been reset for January 19, 2021.

The plaintiffs, including D&M Farms, Mark Hasty, Dustin Land, Rocky Creek Peanut Farms LLC, Daniel Howell, L&K Farms Group LLC, and Lonnie Gilbert, are represented by Durrette Arkema Gerson & Gill.  The Birdsong Corporation is represented by Kaufman & Canoles; Golden Peanut Company LLC is represented by Kirkland & Ellis; and Olam Peanut Shelling Company, Inc.,  is represented by Stoel Rives, LLP.