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Judge Dismisses Crab Price-Fixing Claims Against Pacific Seafood

 |  May 22, 2024

In a legal victory for Pacific Seafood, a proposed class action accusing the company of fixing the price paid to crabbers for Dungeness crab in the Pacific Northwest has been dismissed. The lawsuit, initiated in early 2023 by commercial crabber Brand Little, claimed that Pacific Seafood manipulated market prices through coercive agreements with other wholesale buyers and some crabbers.

The lead plaintiff, Brand Little, argued that Pacific Seafood gained control over crab pricing by forming “coercive combinations” with various wholesale buyers. Little’s lawsuit, filed under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, alleged that Pacific Seafood used its dominant market position and engaged in practices involving threats, intimidation, and retaliation to maintain its pricing schemes.

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However, Magistrate Judge Alex G. Tse of the U.S. District Court ruled that Little’s claims were insufficient. According to Bloomberg, Judge Tse stated that Little did not plausibly allege that Pacific Seafood coerced “substantially all” direct purchasers of fresh crab on the West Coast into participating in the alleged conspiracy. The judge noted the lack of evidence showing that Pacific’s actions had a broad impact on other buyers besides Little himself, despite there being approximately 1,400 Dungeness crab fishers along the U.S. West Coast, including 600 who deliver to Pacific Seafood.

Pacific Seafood, which filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in May 2023, argued that Little failed to demonstrate any anticompetitive or exclusionary conduct. The company also pointed out that Little did not identify any other buyers harmed by its actions.

The dismissal of the lawsuit is a temporary reprieve for Pacific Seafood, which has faced criticism and legal challenges over its market practices.

Source: News Bloomberg Law