The Third Circuit ruled on Monday in an antitrust lawsuit regarding processed egg pricing that the jury was properly instructed, affirming the decision from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The Order called its opinion “another chapter in the long-running dispute,” which began in 2008 with a complaint filed by grocery companies including The Kroger Co., Safeway Inc., Walgreen Co., and Albertsons LLC. The plaintiffs claimed in that complaint that egg producers conspired and reduced production of eggs to artificially increase the price. In their brief after the appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the District Court improperly told the jury that all three elements in the conspiracy would need to be proven, when in actuality only one element would be a violation of the Sherman Act.
The Third Circuit ruling aligned with the brief filed in July by the defendant, Rose Acre Farms Inc. The defendant claimed that the plaintiffs had presented a single conspiracy with multiple components and that they had repeatedly told the court that the conspiracy contained all three elements but in the appeal tried to address a narrowed conspiracy. United Egg Producers Inc. (UEP) and United States Egg Marketers Inc. are also defendants in the suit.
According to the present Order, the jury was told that “restraint of trade is illegal only if it is found to be unreasonable” and that the “three alleged restraints must all be part of a single conspiracy.” The jury decided no to the first question asked, saying that the actions of the defendants were not unreasonable, leaving no need for them to answer the remaining questions, according to the ruling.
The Third Circuit said the UEP Certified Program had pro-competitive benefits and was not an agreement to reduce egg supply, which it had previously concluded, so the District Court had not made an error and the jury’s decision that there was no conspiracy should be held.
The plaintiffs are represented by Sperling & Slater, and some plaintiffs have additional counsel. Rose Acre Farms is represented by Porter Wright Morris & Arthur. UEP and United Egg Markets are represented by Troutman Pepper.