Law Street Media

Runner Peanut Farmers Seek to Certify Putative Class in Antitrust Case

Peanuts in a bowl on a wodden table, surrounded by peanuts and shells.

Peanuts in small wooden bowl on natural rustic desk.

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging antitrust activity in the runner peanut industry are seeking to have their class of peanut farmers certified by the Eastern District of Virginia. The plaintiffs in the case alleged that three large peanut companies conspired to “drive down the prices they paid America’s peanut farmers for their hard work” over the last six years, leading some farmers to bankruptcy.

The plaintiffs’ motion for class certification was filed on September 4, along with a memorandum in support of the motion, however, the public redacted copies of the memorandum became available on Thursday. The plaintiffs claimed that the requirements for class certification have been met and that treating the plaintiffs and other harmed individuals as a class will help the adjudication process.

The plaintiffs explained that class treatment is “far superior” to the potential for thousands of individual lawsuits, especially since some class members may not have enough damage to warrant an individual lawsuit, so “a class action is virtually the only means of redress.” They further said that discussing the same information in multiple cases would be inefficient and less manageable.

The memorandum explained that the defendants, Birdsong Corporation, Golden Peanut Company LLC, and Olam Peanut Shelling Company, Inc., control 80 percent of the market for shelling runner peanuts. Because of this market control, the plaintiffs alleged they had the ability to eliminate price competition in the prices paid to farmers of runner peanuts.

Brian D. Clark of Lockridge Grindal Nauen, P.L.L.P. submitted a declaration in support of class certification last Thursday. It contains numerous exhibits and explains why specific peanut farmers, who are named plaintiffs, are qualified to represent the putative class. One example is Mark Hasty, a peanut farmer, who “has dedicated extensive time and effort to advancing this matter and is committed to helping other peanut farmers who have been similarly injured by Defendants’ anti-competitive prices,” according to the declaration.

The declaration also lists lawyers in the case who were appointed “Interim Co-Lead counsel” including Brian D. Clark, and Kimberly A. Justice of the law firm Freed Kanner London & Millen LLC. It says they “have committed to representing the class and vigorously pursuing relief for the harm they allege they have suffered as a result of (the) Defendants’ conduct.”

Birdsong is represented by Kaufman & Canoles; Golden Peanut Company is represented by Kirkland & Ellis; and Olam is represented by Latham & Watkins. The plaintiffs are represented by Durrette Arkema Gerson & Gill; Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P., Freed Kanner London & Millen LLC; and Spector Roseman & Kodroff, P.C. 

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