Dechert Secures Major Trial Victory in Eggs Class Action

June 18, 2018

Dechert has achieved a decisive victory for family-owned Pennsylvania egg producer R. W. Sauder, Inc. in a US$1 billion antitrust class action jury trial in Philadelphia Federal Court. Jury verdicts in antitrust class action disputes are extremely rare, with a defense victory even more unusual. Given the prospect of facing exposure for joint and several liability and treble damages, most defendants chose to settle with plaintiffs before or during trial.  

In this hugely significant case, Dechert’s antitrust trial team defended our client against the nation’s premier plaintiff class action law firms, which sued thirteen egg producers, including R. W. Sauder, Inc., on behalf of a class of direct purchasers. The plaintiff class contended that the defendant egg producers conspired to reduce or limit the domestic supply of eggs in an overarching conspiracy consisting of agreements to slaughter hens early, export eggs at a loss, and enter into a sham animal welfare program that required increased cage space per hen. Dechert vigorously defended R. W. Sauder, Inc., focusing on Sauder’s independence: it never slaughtered hens prior to the end of their productive lives, it entered into the animal welfare program because it was firmly rooted in science resulting in increased productivity and reduced mortality, and it exported eggs when it made business sense to do so, because it lacked better customer alternatives.   

Ten of the thirteen defendant egg producers settled with the direct purchaser class prior to the trial for roughly US$140 million. Despite some early losses with respect to whether the defendants’ activities were protected by the Capper-Volstead Act (a statute that provides immunity to agricultural co-operatives) Sauder and two other producers took the case to trial. After a five-week trial and seven days of deliberations the jury concluded that while a conspiracy existed, Sauder had not joined it.  

The Dechert team included partners Steven Bizar, Christine Levin and Michael McGinley, associates Julia Chapman and Tiffany Engsell, and paralegal Tiffany Lewis.

About Dechert 

Dechert is a leading global law firm with 27 offices around the world. We advise on matters and transactions of the greatest complexity, bringing energy, creativity and efficient management of legal issues to deliver commercial and practical advice for clients.

 


 

Watch the trial team discuss the case