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By Jacob Rund
U.S.-based egg producers emerged unscrambled from a longstanding antitrust suit over an alleged conspiracy to limit supply and hike prices.
A jury in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a June 14 verdict that found actions by certain producers didn’t constitute unreasonable restraint of trade, attorneys from both sides told Bloomberg Law.
After a month-long trial, the jury found that a conspiracy among producers existed, and that Rose Acre Farms, one of the three remaining defendants, was a participant. But since the scheme was found not to unreasonably restrict trade, the producers aren’t liable for the antitrust violations alleged in the complaint.
A spokeswoman for Dechert LLP, counsel to Lititz, Pa.-based egg wholesaler R.W. Sauder, said the verdict was a win for the defendants. The jury found that Sauder and Ohio Fresh Eggs were not parties to the conspiracy.
The multi-district litigation has been going on for 10 years, and most of the top egg manufacturers bowed out after reaching agreements with the plaintiffs.
The case centered around price fixing accusations leveled by egg buyers, which claimed that members of United Egg Producers (UEP) and United States Egg Marketers (USEM) used those groups to reach an agreement that limited the domestic egg supply. The alleged agreement spurred an increase in egg prices, the buyers argued.
Jury verdicts in antitrust lawsuits are rare, as most parties opt to settle and avoid the potential for a costly, drawn-out litigation process. The cases that are decided by a jury are often appealed. Plaintiffs are still weighing their options, their attorneys said.
The case is In re Processed Egg Prods. Antitrust Litig., E.D. Pa., No. 08-md-2002, jury verdict issued 6/14/18 .
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