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Weil Secures Major Victory for Egg Producer Michael Foods, Inc. in Antitrust MDL

Serving as counsel for Michael Foods, Inc. in a federal multidistrict antitrust litigation encompassing two nationwide class actions and more than ten individual lawsuits, Weil obtained a victory when the Court denied plaintiffs’ motion to certify a massive class of consumers that purchased eggs – seeking more than $7 billion in damages.

Plaintiffs have asserted  numerous conspiracy claims against Michael Foods, other egg producers, and several industry organizations in this MDL, alleging a vast conspiracy to reduce output and anticompetitively inflate the prices of shell eggs and egg products in the U.S. from 2000 to the present.  Plaintiffs collectively sought in excess of $10 billion in damages before trebling – $2.4 billion of which were damages sought by the indirect purchasers, plus attorney fees. Weil has argued on behalf of all defendants in seeking to defeat class certification and in numerous discovery and expert disputes.

The recent denial to certify the indirect purchaser class, however, represents a significant win for Michael Foods and Weil. In its 85 page decision, the Court explained how “[c]ertifying a class, even in a case as seemingly prototypical as one involving a nationwide price-fixing conspiracy, is not an easy task,” especially when “it appears so unlikely that individuals will bring their own lawsuits,” but nonetheless there is a need to “ensure that the due process rights of litigants are not lost among the tumult of an unwieldy and disorderly class action.” In further explaining this need to ensure due process, as it pertains to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court stated that:

Rule 23 recognizes a risk that rough justice can be injustice, and thereby mandates a rigorous analysis to prevent subjecting the class and the class’s opponent to it. Here, Defendants are facing liability under the laws of 21 states. Plaintiffs are seeking a massive monetary award on behalf of millions of individuals. Rough justice would indeed lead to injustice here, where millions of people and millions of dollars fall within the wide margins of error.

Carrie Mahan Anderson, an antitrust partner in the Firm’s Washington, D.C. office, represents Michael Foods, Inc. and served as lead counsel for the joint defense group on the class certification defense.