Consumers seeking money from a widely reported settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed against the American dairy industry have run out of time to submit their claims.
Milk producers last year agreed to a US$52 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit that alleged a nationwide conspiracy to limit the production of milk by slaughtering cows. The unlawful campaign was designed to illegally boost the price of milk and other products, the complaint alleged.
The settlement covered consumers in 15 states and the District of Columbia who purchased milk or other related products, such as yogurt and cottage cream, from 2003 through the present, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, a law firm representing the class, said in a legal notice published in September.
Class members had to file a claim online by Jan. 31, 2017, according to the notice.
Scott Brown of the University of Missouri said the “herd retirement program" led to the slaughter of 500,000 cows and reduced the nation’s milk supply by around 10 billion pounds or approximately 1.2 billion gallons of milk, USA TODAY reported. The program also more than doubled the price of raw milk from 2007 to 2010 and boosted milk price revenues by nearly $10 billion, the newspaper said.
The lawsuit alleged the defendant Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) spent $217 million in 2009 to retire herds, “that is, paying dairy farmers to cease competing–and thereby substantially constraining output, reducing the supply of raw milk, and eliminating dairy farmers from the market."
CWT is reportedly responsible for producing nearly 70 percent of the country’s milk. Other defendants in the lawsuit that are part of the settlement agreement include Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., Land O'Lakes, Inc., Dairylea Cooperative Inc. and Agri-Mark, Inc.
“It is important to note that the court has found no antitrust violation and CWT makes no admission of wrongdoing in this settlement," CWT, a national program developed by the National Milk Producers Federation, said in a statement. “The activity at issue in this litigation—the herd retirement program—has long since been terminated by CWT."
CWT said it will pay $52 million to the class in a mix of cash and in-store loyalty cards to be used for the purchase of fresh milk products. The settlement agreement was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division.