Dean Foods settles dairy farmers suit

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 24, 2010, at 7:13 p.m.

Northeast Dairy Farmers reached a settlement agreement Friday with Dean Foods Co. in a class-action antitrust lawsuit against Dean, Dairy Farmers of America and Dairy Marketing Services.

The agreement will include $30 million in monetary damages and injunctive relief that calls for Dean to buy a portion of its raw milk from multiple Northeast sources.

While no Maine farmers are involved in the lawsuit, according to the legal firm representing the Northeast farmers, they have been closely following the case because of the impact it might have on milk prices.

“This is a major win for dairy farmers in the Northeast who have been squeezed by monopolization and price-fixing,” said Benjamin Brown, an attorney at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, which represents the farmers. “We are pleased that Dean Foods is working with plaintiffs to put this practice behind them.”

The lawsuit is far from resolved, however, added Kit A. Pierson of Cohen Milstein.

“The case is continuing against the remaining defendants, Dairy Farmers of America and its marketing affiliate Dairy Marketing Services,” Pierson said. “Still at issue are charges that the DFA — the nation’s largest cooperative — monopolized a level of distribution of fluid milk in the Northeast and forced dairy farmers to join DFA or its marketing affiliate DMS to survive.”

Dairy Farmers of America and Dairy Marketing Services have been named in the suit for engaging in monopolization, price-fixing, and other anti-competitive conduct.

The next step is for the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, where the lawsuit was filed in August 2009, to grant preliminary approval of the settlement agreement. Notice will then go out to the estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Northeast dairy farmers who could be eligible to file a claim for monetary damages.

For more information about the case, visit www.cohenmilstein.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/12/24/news/dean-foods-settles-dairy-farmers-suit/ printed on August 27, 2014