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SCOTUS Declines to Hear Appeal in Chicken Suppliers’ Price-Fixing Agreement Case

 |  January 9, 2024

On Monday, the US Supreme Court opted not to hear an appeal related to an agreement among major U.S. meat suppliers concerning the allocation of potential liability for price-fixing claims. The appeal was brought by chicken purchasers, including retail giants Target and Campbell Soup, among others.

The Supreme Court’s decision upholds a ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June, which had blocked the pre-trial challenge against the suppliers’ “judgment sharing agreement.” According to Reuters, the order from the justices was issued without comment, leaving intact the appellate court’s decision.

The chicken producers, who were at the center of the legal dispute, had defended their agreement and actively urged the Supreme Court not to take up the case at this stage. An attorney for the chicken purchasers, representing law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, had no immediate comment following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Notably, representatives from meat suppliers Tyson Foods and Perdue did not provide immediate responses to requests for comments on the matter.

The chicken purchasers, including Target, Campbell’s, and an affiliate of litigation funder Burford Capital, allege that they paid artificially high prices for chicken products, violating U.S. antitrust laws. These lawsuits are part of coordinated litigation taking place in federal court in Chicago, involving claims from various entities, such as consumers, restaurants, and other plaintiffs. Similar antitrust cases have also been filed against suppliers in the turkey, pork, and beef industries.

Read more: NY Bus Company Accuses Rivals Of Price-Fixing Scheme

The plaintiffs in these cases have sought substantial damages, ranging from tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars, with damages in antitrust cases automatically tripled. Numerous claims have already been settled in the ongoing litigation, reported Reuters.

In response to the allegations, more than a dozen defendants in the chicken litigation entered into a defense agreement designed to distribute potential monetary liability. The agreement outlines a plan for how a “settling plaintiff agrees to reduce the dollar amount collectible from non-settling parties.”

The plaintiffs had argued in 2021 that the agreement was unlawful and interfered with the private enforcement of antitrust laws. The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the appeal leaves the appellate court’s ruling in place, maintaining the status quo in the complex legal battle surrounding alleged price-fixing in the U.S. meat industry.

Source: Reuters