Nov 22 (Reuters) – Kraft (KHC.O), General Mills (GIS.N) and other major food companies convinced a federal jury in Chicago that major U.S. egg producers are liable for illegally inflating prices, paving the way for a second trial. . To determine damages.
Tuesday’s ruling came after a more than five-week antitrust trial against a group of egg producers including Cal Maine Foods (CALM.O), the nation’s largest egg producer and distributor, and Rose Acre, the second-largest, over allegations that… They “manipulated” the market by conspiring to charge artificially high prices.
Cal-Maine said in a statement Wednesday that it was disappointed with the jury’s ruling on liability. She said the jury rejected “key portions” of the plaintiffs’ claims and that she would “vigorously challenge” the damages brought to court by the food producers.
Lawyers for the other defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The United States Egg Producers and Egg Marketers trade associations were also found liable. All of the defendants denied any wrongdoing.
Kraft and the other plaintiffs, including Kellogg (KN) and Nestle (NESN.S), next week will seek damages in the second phase of a two-day trial that begins on November 28 before the same jury.
A spokesman for the law firm Jenner & Block said Tuesday that the food production plaintiffs have not proposed a specific amount for damages.
Jenner’s attorney, Brandon Fox, said during the trial that plaintiffs spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” on egg products. Kellogg purchased tens of millions of dollars worth of egg products from Rose Acre, he said.
Fox said in a statement that prosecutors were “incredibly pleased” with the jury’s decision to hold the defendants accountable.
Kraft and the other plaintiffs alleged that Cal Maine and the other defendants conspired to limit egg supplies in a scheme to increase prices.
“The conspiracy really exists. You know the players. You know who did it. You’ve had the opportunity to see it day in and day out,” Fox told the jury during the trial.
The defendants countered that consumer demand and independent business interests drove business decisions.
“The toll this case has taken has been immeasurable,” Rose Acker’s family attorney, James King of Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, told the jury.
Prosecutors expect the damages trial to take approximately two days. US District Judge Steven Seager is overseeing the case.
The case is Kraft Foods Global Inc. v. United Egg Producers Inc., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 11-cv-8808.
For Plaintiffs: Brandon Fox of Jenner & Block
For United Egg Producers and Egg Marketers in the United States: Robin Sumner of Troutman Paper Hamilton Sanders
For Cal Maine: Patrick Collins of King & Spalding
For Rose Acre: James King of Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur
Mike Scarcella reports
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