Several class-action and individual lawsuits alleging pork price-fixing by some of the largest U.S. pork production companies have been consolidated by a Minnesota judge. According to the filing, the consolidation of two separate case numbers, with multiple cases in each, will “promote efficiency, prevent confusion and unnecessary complication, and prevent duplicative or conflicting decisions.”
Lawsuits were filed beginning in 2018 alleging the producers had engaged in a price fixing conspiracy in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. Since then, several other lawsuits have been filed by numerous parties.
U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim concluded the combining the cases will “eliminate duplicative discovery, avoid inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.”
He wrote: “It would be unwieldy and unnecessary for both the court and the parties to attempt to maintain these actions under two separate case numbers. The court would have to issue different scheduling orders, hear separate motions, and attempt to avoid inconsistent rulings. Parties—and in some cases nonparties—would have to comply with two sets of orders and file on multiple dockets after making changes to each filing. The cases raise identical issues of fact, many identical issues of law, and other similar if not identical issues of law.”
Consolidation will also reduce the problems posed by having the cases on separate dockets while addressing both similar and identical issues on each docket, he noted. The parties and the court will also generally need to only file in one centralized place and will not have to deal with making minor changes to satisfy the different case numbers.
“This unified docket reduces the risk of a party or the court making a filing error, eliminating the need for additional proceedings to address these issues and the risk of increased costs or prejudice affecting resolution of the cases on the merits.”
Furthermore, a consolidated case will decrease the risk that the court will inadvertently enter conflicting or inconsistent rulings and, if the court were to do so, centralizes and simplifies resolution of these issues, Tunheim noted.
“The Court recognizes that there may be some bumps on the consolidation road, but still concludes it will be the smoothest, most efficient route to resolving this case.”
Both JBS USA and Smithfield have reached settlements in several pork-price fixing lawsuits, for $57 million and around $200 million, respectively.
Defendants in the ongoing litigation include Clemens Food Group, The Clemens Family Corporation, Hormel Foods Corporation, Seaboard Foods, Triumph Foods, Tyson Foods, Tyson Prepared Foods, Tyson Fresh Meats and Agri Stats.