In re: Southeastern Milk Antitrust Litigation

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) membership of some of the 7,200 current and former dairy farmers who comprise the plaintiff class continues to complicate the Southeastern Milk Antitrust Litigation, where DFA is a defendant. On August 31, 2011, District Judge Ronnie Greer, on motion of defendant Dean Foods Company (Dean), reluctantly shelved, at least temporarily, proceedings to approve the $140 million settlement between Dean and the plaintiff class announced on July 12, 2011. Judge Greer, in a 10-page memorandum opinion, candidly acknowledged he “would like nothing better than to deny Dean’s motion,” but concluded he “ha[d] no choice but to grant” it. (Slip. Op. at 7, 9.) Relying on Amchen Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591 (1997), and Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., 527 U.S. 815 (1999), Judge Greer decided the court could not “make an ‘undiluted’ determination that the class including both DFA member dairy farmers and independent dairy farmers meets the requirement of Rule 23,” as required to approve the class-wide settlement. This determination was not possible, since the court on July 28, 2011, had found “‘a conflict of interest [between DFA dairy farmers and independent dairy farmers] requiring the Court to decertify’ the DFA member subclass.” (Slip Op. at 5.) The Dean settlement may yet be approved. The motion for preliminary approval of the settlement will be taken “under advisement pending appointment of separate counsel and class representatives for the DFA subclass,” after which “it may be possible for the Court to certify the DFA subclass for settlement purposes, [and] grant the motion to preliminar[il]y approve the settlement agreement . . . .” (Id. at 10.) The memorandum opinion is available on Comp Law360.

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2 responses to “In re: Southeastern Milk Antitrust Litigation

  1. The article re dairy reform by Von Ruden is well written, but it would be useful to see some statistics re retail margins on fluid milk, rather than on dairy products as a whole. Are such statistics available?

  2. My comment above responds to a comment by Pallavi Guniganti of 8/7/11, relating to an earlier post (7/14/11) about the Southeastern Milk Antitrust Litigation. The referenced Guniganti comment includes a link to the article by Von Ruden mentioned in my 9/9/11 comment.